Churchgoers flock to service despite urgent call to worship from home

Photo: Johan van Buren
Photo: Johan van Buren

A church in Barneveld in Gelderland welcomed hundreds of people to its service on Sunday despite an urgent government call to conducts services online and not congregate for fear of infection.

Places of worship, such as churches and mosques are exempt from the lockdown measures because, unlike for schools, there is no provision under the constitution that allows the government to close the doors or even determine how many people may attend.

Critics have said a new provision could have been added to the coronavirus law but point to the opposition of the orthodox Christian parties in parliament. Others have slated churchgoers for not taking responsibility.

‘We understand the criticism from society, Hans van der Velde, a spokesman for the Christian Reformed Rehoboth church, told the Telegraaf. ‘But closure is advisory only and it is not up to us to pass judgement. We have done everything to make the service as safe as possible. ’

Van der Velde said that apart from monitoring the social distance rule the ‘organ plays more softly so people won’t sing so loudly’.

Visitors to the service, which included families and elderly people, said they were not worried about infection. ‘I have been coming here every week,’ one elderly woman told the paper.

Church leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, have called on their congregation not to attend large-scale mass celebrations and follow them online or with a maximum of 30 people. The Catholic church has banned all Christmas eve services.

Barneveld, which is in the middle of the Dutch Bible belt, had 186 coronavirus infections per 100,000 people on Saturday compared to 66 in Amsterdam, the Telegraaf said.

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