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Church could reopen without singing in Germany

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Germany is to set out guidelines for holding religious services during the coronavirus pandemic with a list of strict restrictions expected to include a ban on singing.

Religious services have been banned since the start of Germany’s lockdown in mid-March and some worshippers have expressed fury at the government’s apparent slowness in plotting a route back to reopening churches.

A loosening of restrictions a week ago after Germany’s infection rate decreased sufficiently, saw small shops, along with bicycle repair workshops, car washes and other businesses, able to operate again. But places of worship have not been viewed as such a political priority, despite pleas from religious leaders that spiritual nourishment is as important to many Germans, if not more so, than shopping.

One Catholic community in Berlin, which insisted on continuing to celebrate mass, even took the government to court over the ban.

Angela Merkel, a pastor’s daughter and herself a regular church-goer, will meet the leaders of the country’s 16 states on Thursday to coordinate a nationwide set of rules.

Religious leaders have agreed in advance meetings a set of general rules on strict physical distancing and the prohibition of anything involving bodily fluids, such as kissing religious objects, including the Jewish Torah, or administering communion from hand to mouth. Muslim leaders have agreed a temporary halt to Friday prayers.

Communal singing has reportedly proved to be a particular sticking point in the discussions, despite repeated warnings by leading epidemiologists that singing is as dangerous as coughing for spreading the virus.

Reports around the globe including in Los Angeles, where three-quarters of the members of one choir fell ill and two died, and in Berlin, where 59 out of 78 singers from the choir of Berlin’s Protestant cathedral went down with the virus – have offered plenty of anecdotal evidence that singing in choirs has contributed to the spread of coronavirus in some communities.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the German government’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, specifically warned on Tuesday that singing was ill-advised. “Evidence shows that during singing, the virus drops appear to fly particularly far,” he said.

Virologists also believe singers could absorb many more particles as they tend to breathe deeper into their diaphragms than they would during normal breathing.

A draft bans both communal singing and wind instruments from services over the “amplified precipitation of potentially infectious drops” and while it has been backed in principle by Protestant leaders, who nevertheless wish to draw a distinction between roomy cathedrals and small village churches, Catholic heads are opposed.

“If the distance rules are abided by, there is no reason why singing should be refrained from altogether,” the German Bishops Conference has said in its own position paper. A spokesman added: “We believe quiet singing and praying should be possible.”

It has been argued that the government has been slow to act on church re-openings to ensure police were not overwhelmed when carrying out controls necessitated by a step-by-step easing of restrictions, as well as the nationwide introduction this week of obligatory face coverings.

Priority has been given to Germany’s 30,000 mosques and prayer rooms which have been allowed to open during the month of Ramadan. Muslim worshippers are obliged to wear a mouth and nose covering on entering mosques, and over-65s have been advised to stay away for their own protection. Each worshipper should have at least 10 square metres of space to themselves.

Bavaria, which often takes a singular approach to regulation, allowed church services of under 15 people to resume over a week ago, with the Catholic church issuing seat reservations to regulate the flow of worshippers. Priests are prohibited from administering communion on the tongue and holy water is banned.

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Pastor of Jacob Blake’s mother launches 40 days of humility, prayer, fasting for racial healing

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Insight Church Pastor James E. Ward Jr. says he is on a mission to bring racial healing to the nation and “God’s blessing to black America” through 40 Days of Humility, Prayer, and Fasting. And he’s hoping America will join him.

The Skokie, Illinois, preacher recently catapulted to the national stage through his connection to Julia Jackson, one of his most devout parishioners and mother of 29-year-old Wisconsin father Jacob S. Blake, who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Kenosha on Aug. 23. Blake is currently “in a spinal injury rehabilitation center in Chicago.”

His shooting was one of several primarily deadly encounters between black men and local law enforcement that sparked civil unrest over racial justice and inequality since the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis Police Department officers in May.

“The issue that we see in society surrounding race, the protest, the rioting, those things communicate to us that there is a serious problem in our nation and unfortunately in most cases we are not … equipped to solve the problem that we know needs to be solved,” Ward told The Christian Post in an interview Friday.

He is convinced that when it comes to race, America is wrestling with a deep-rooted spiritual problem that must be addressed with a spiritual response. And that’s why he launched the national spiritual prayer movement on Sept. 25 that will culminate with a livestreamed prayer for the nation on Nov. 2 from Washington, D.C.

“40 Days asks all Americans to fervently pray and fast before God for racial harmony and healing in America prior to the national presidential election,” the movement said in a statement to CP.

The group has also launched an initiative called the Zero Victim Community Development Corporation, which was “prayerfully designed to restore and strengthen black lives and families across our country.”

“Part of the expression of our prayer is prayer with action and this new Zero Victim Development Corporation is us engaging to act on behalf of what we believe, and really beginning to target how to bring God’s blessing to black America,” Ward said.

Even in a socially disruptive election year when Christians remain deeply divided on issues of race and politics, Ward is convinced that if people are able to humble themselves in prayer, America can fix its race problem.

“I’m very much aware of the disparity of folks looking at what I call a singular issue through multiple lenses. And that’s basically what you see happening in society where it’s individuals looking at the same bottle. One person is looking at the logo on the front side and the other person is looking at the nutrition label on the backside,” explained Ward.

“The exact reason we are calling ourselves to 40 days of humility, prayer and fasting, not just prayer and fasting, 40 days of humility, prayer and fasting, [is] because there’s a brokenness that we have to have. We have to check our opinions, our own sentiments, self-serving ideologies, identifying selfishness in our own life. It begins with humility and when I start with humility it means I’m willing to give up and enter into surrendering into something deeper through the avenue of prayer and fasting.”

Blake was shot seven times in the back by officer Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that a woman called 911 to report that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be at the residence. According to audio dispatch obtained by Madison365, Blake had taken the woman’s keys and refused to leave.

When officers arrived at the scene, they encountered Blake, who resisted arrest. They unsuccessfully tried to subdue him with a Taser and Blake then walked around to his vehicle at the scene with armed police officers pointing their guns at his back, according to video posted on social media. Blake opened the driver’s side door of his vehicle and leaned forward. While holding onto Blake’s shirt, the Wisconsin DOJ said Sheskey fired his service weapon.

Blake’s family said the shooting has left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Wisconsin DOJ officials said Blake “admitted that he had a knife in his possession.” It was recovered on the floorboard of the driver’s side of the vehicle.

Brendan Matthews, the attorney representing Sheskey, told CNN that the officer fired the shots because he believed Blake was trying to kidnap a child as he heard a woman say, “He’s got my kid. He’s got my keys.”

There were three children in the back of the car at the time of the shooting.

In an op-ed for The New York Times Thursday, Jacob Blake’s uncle, Rick Blake, described the invisible toll of the shooting on his family, including his brother Jacob Blake Sr., affectionately called “Big Jake.”

“Our story is different from those of many families whose lives have been devastated by police brutality — our Li’l Jake survived. But in mostly every other way, the experience is similar. When the cameras stop rolling, the lights fade and public attention turns away, we’re left with our pain and we return to the battle against racism and for justice and reform,” Rick Blake wrote.

Rick Blake described how his brother, who suffers from diabetes, heart disease and chronic neuropathy, was forced to venture out during the pandemic from his home to support his son in the hospital and how he paid dearly for it with his health.

“The toll on my brother has gone largely unnoticed — except, of course, by members of our family. One night, he sat in the dark on a rock next to the hotel where he was staying, so sick and tired he couldn’t move, his hand swollen to the size of a catcher’s mitt from gout. By chance, the director of the hospital where Li’l Jake was being treated found him and he was taken to the emergency room for treatment,” he explained.

When asked about the Blake family’s revelation, Ward replied: “I think for those of us who have never been through something like this, there is no way to imagine what it feels like.”

Julia Jackson has been leaning on her faith while continuing to support her son’s recovery.

“I know it has to be one of the hardest things that Julia has every dealt with and she’s constantly in need, and I would say Jacob too, of prayer and I think that’s one of the roles that her church family plays for her. Having a church family, having a prayer team that she’s a part of, she has a core group of people around her that are there to encourage her spiritually, emotionally and mentally,” Ward said.

He argued that when shootings like Blake’s occur, people can sometime lose sight of the human toll they bring when they are criticized and politicized in the court of public opinion.

“There are so many negatives things spoken around these situations and publicly I don’t think we always give families the space that they need to grieve,” Ward said.

And it’s one of the reasons he believes a new prayer movement is needed now more than ever.

“It’s the people of America that need to change and when the people of America change, America will change and that’s the beginning of what we are calling for right now,” he said.
Sources: Christian Post

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കാനഡ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന സംഗമം നവംബര്‍ 7 ന്

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ടൊറോന്റോ: കാനഡയിലെ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകളുടെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില്‍ ഈ രാജ്യത്തിനുവേണ്ടിയും സഭകളുടെ ആത്മീയ മുന്നേറ്റത്തിനും ആനുഗ്രഹത്തിനുമായി നവംബര്‍ 7 ന് വൈകിട്ട് 7 മണിക്ക് നടത്തപ്പെടുന്ന ആത്മീയ സമ്മേളനത്തിന്റെ ഒരുക്കങ്ങള്‍ പുരോഗമിച്ചു വരുന്നു.

കൊവിഡ് എന്ന മഹാമാരിയുടെ നടുവില്‍ കൂടി ലോകം കടന്നു പോകുമ്പോള്‍ കാനഡയ്ക്ക് വേണ്ടി പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കുവാന്‍ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകള്‍ 7 പ്രൊവിന്‍സുകളില്‍ നിന്നും ആവേശത്തോടെ ജൂലൈ മാസം 25 ന് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥനയായി സൂംമില്‍ കൂടി നടത്തപ്പെടുകയുണ്ടായി. കാനഡയിലെ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകളുടെ ചരിത്രത്തിലെ ഒരു പുതിയ അദ്ധ്യായമായി അത് മാറുകയുണ്ടായി. #്തിന്റെ തുടര്‍ച്ചയായി നവംബര്‍ മാസം 7 ന് രണ്ടാമത് മീറ്റിംഗ് നടത്തുവാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു.

ഈ മീറ്റിംഗിന് നേതൃത്വം കൊടുക്കുന്നത് കാനഡ മലയാളി പാസ്റ്റേഴ്‌സ് ഫെലോഷിപ്പ് ആണ്. പാസ്റ്റര്‍മാരായ ഫിന്നി സാമുവല്‍,വില്‍സണ്‍ കടവില്‍, ജോണ്‍ തോമസ്, മാത്യൂ കോശി വന്‍കോവര്‍ എന്നിവര്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുന്നു.

ഈ മീറ്റിംഗിന്റെ പ്രോഗ്രാം കോ ഓര്‍ഡിനേറ്റര്‍സ് ആയി പാസ്റ്റര്‍മാരായ ബാബു ജോര്‍ജ്, സോണി മാമന്‍, വി ടി റെജിമോന്‍ എന്നിവര്‍ വിവിധ കമ്മറ്റികള്‍ക്ക് നേതൃത്വം കൊടുക്കുന്നു. ഈ പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന സംഗമത്തിന് ഏവരേയും ഹാര്‍ദ്ദവമായി സ്വാഗതം ചെയ്യുന്നു.

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