Cook Islands will come together for a national prayer service initiated by the Cook Islands Government and the Religious Advisory Council tomorrow evening.
Leaders will pray for protection against Covid-19, and will express heartfelt condolences to the people affected by the global pandemic.
The prayer service will start at 5pm on Sunday March 15 at the Auditorium in Tupapa, while the Pa Enua will hold their prayer services simultaneously with combined churches of Rarotonga.
This may be the last time a mass gathering will be held on Rarotonga, until the threat of the spread of coronavirus is under control.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has suspended large gatherings, public worship services and activities as they continue to monitor changing conditions related to Covid-19.
Church member Tamatoa Jonassen said the announcement should come as no surprise given the church leadership’s concern for the welfare of its members.
Similar measures were already in place in countries where there are Covid-19 outbreaks, he said.
“Over the past two years the leadership of the church have already made inspired changes to curriculum that have already reduced church meetings and increased focus on home learning,” he said.
“There has always been an effort for members to be self-reliant, be prepared for emergencies, and maintain food storage. With social distancing being implemented, our reliance on technology to care for and minister to each other increases.”
Cook Islands church culture revolves around how you greet members of your congregation, who are usually your family and the way you worship through song.
Some believe music is a form of connection with God and with the people.
Waving at each other and listening to a pre-recorded CD of songs in most cases would simply not cut it.
But with global fear mounting around Covid-19, so too has the necessity to create some important ground rules for churches with large congregations.
At the Apostolic Church, Bishop Tutai Pere has already put measures in place at the church and with their choir in preparation for if coronavirus hits the shores of Rarotonga.
They are executing no kissing, hand shaking or hugging greeting gestures and await any further announcements from the health authorities, he said.
The choir usually stands in groups close together, as choirs normally do but they did their first trial run standing in one line across the stage and sang only one song at the Women's World Day of Prayer.
“We sang only one, performed by our Youth Praise Generation, singing in a straight line only right across the stage 10 metres away from the crowd,” he said.
Only the prayers, scripture readings, the message for the evening and president's address were delivered from a lectern at the front – again, away from the crowd.
The church’s youth choir also took to the task of pre-recording 12 songs the following day, in case of a clampdown on church meetings and open singing.
“My son Alex, our video man, is editing those songs ready for use at both our regular Sunday church combine services, as well as our Sunday 4pm half hour TV programme,” Bishop Pere said.
He believed big churches should cut down to smaller groups, especially at this time. “There’s a need to reduce large group gatherings.”