KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — This is the first time in history that several churches in Malaysia experience service suspension due to a disease outbreak.
According to a St John’s Cathedral Kuala Lumpur church worker, this was the first time many attended Mass by tuning in to a “live” broadcast online.
“Some of my friends are sad that they cannot come to church, but we have no choice.
“We have to take necessary precautions as we don’t want another episode similar as what happened to the church in Puchong,” said the church worker who requested anonymity.
On March 6, the Chancery of the Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur said a parishioner from the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLOG) in Taman Industri, Puchong, had tested positive on March 5 for Covid-19 and is now being treated at Sungai Buloh Hospital.
On March 10, it was reported that another two OLOG church members tested positive for Covid-19.
According to the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur website, two members of the OLOG were in close contact with the first confirmed case in the parish.
As Covid-19 positive cases increase, the Archdiocesan Social Communication Ministry of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur had also announced on March 4 that all penitential services would be stopped.
“Penitential services are the ones with the highest risk as it is a close contact session between the priest and an individual.
“It was stopped quite a while ago for us when we found that the virus could be contractable [sic] through close contact,” the church worker said.
However, the St John’s Cathedral worker said, although Mass will be suspended, the church will remain open to those who want to come and pray.
“Suspending Mass for a big church like us is good, because we also get visitors and tourists. You never know who could walk into the church,” the church worker said.
For the entire month of March, Catholics will be witnessing Mass in major languages for the time via a “live” broadcast channel. Mass will be conducted by the Church of Divine Mercy, Shah Alam.
On Thursday, the Catholic Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia reportedly announced that all weekend and public holiday Mass will be suspended from March 14 to March 29, 2020.
The statement was jointly signed by Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Reverend Julian Leow, Bishop of Penang Right Reverend Sebastian Francis and Bishop of Malacca-Johor Right Reverend Bernard Paul.
According to the statement, similar suspensions applies to other church activities such as catechism classes, meetings, gatherings, formations and fellowship sessions which will be cancelled or placed on hold during the suspension period.
As for weddings or funerals, they are to be conducted privately with attendees limited to immediate family members and close friends, the statement added.
“Some of our members look forward to coming to church to partake of the Holy Communion, but because this is symbolic, you can partake of it spiritually at home,” the church worker said.
The Catholic community is not the only ones who have suspended key services, as the St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral too has decided to suspend Sunday church services.
According to dean of St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral, Dr Andrew Cheah, this was done as the church receives many visitors during Sunday service.
“It isn’t a circular across all Anglican churches nationwide, but only for us, we have taken this step to reduce the probability of the virus spreading among our church members and visitors,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
The church worker who requested anonymity, also said that all church activities have also been suspended.
“This includes classes, trainings, our social work of feeding the needy and prayer meets.
“This is the first time we are having to shut the church, but we have to do it because many services are held concurrently on a typical Sunday.
“For the entire month, members can watch our online services which are available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin,” said the church worker indicating that more information can be found at the church’s website.
As for the Wesley Methodist Church on Jalan Wesley, church services have also been suspended for the rest of the month.
A pre-recorded service and sermon will be broadcasted online instead.
A church worker, who requested anonymity, said it had only recently made the decision.
“It’s very last minute, but our members have been accommodative. So far, we haven’t heard any objections,” said the church worker.
Meanwhile, speaking to a pastor at Wesley Methodist Chinese Church Kuala Lumpur, the church has yet to decide on whether to suspend its services.
“Our congregation is smaller, about 150 to 300 members per session.
“We are able to identify who our members are, and we also have temperature checks done before they enter the church.
“But if the government makes a blanket announcement that all churches have to suspend their meetings, then we too will shut the church,” said the pastor who requested not to be named.
Another church that will be conducting their worship session online will be SIB Kuala Lumpur.
A church circular sighted by Malay Mail said that this step had been taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Church services for SIB Kuala Lumpur will be suspended until April 4, 2020.
Another church in Kuala Lumpur, Metro Tabernacle who also opted for services to be conducted online had posted on their Facebook page calling members to send in their prayer requests, while tithes can be contributed via online banking.