Crowds donning masks pack pews and sing hymns in churches on Good Friday
Christians turned up in numbers on a rainy Friday morning (April 15) for Good Friday services in churches around Singapore after measures were eased last month to allow more people to attend religious services.
Ms Theresa Lee, 29, said she was excited about being able to join her church community on Good Friday, and was glad to see parishioners in masks pack the pews in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in Sengkang.
Since March 29, Covid-19 safety measures have been relaxed, with the capacity limit of religious activities involving more than 1,000 people being increased to 75 per cent from 50 per cent previously. Singing and chanting, which were previously not allowed, are now permitted with masks on.
"For our church, this Good Friday is extra special as we just managed to complete renovation that was stalled due to the pandemic," said Ms Lee, who works in the healthcare sector. She added that being able to sing hymns in her church "feels like finally going home".
Parish priest Eugene Lee of the Church of St Alphonsus, or Novena Church, as it is popularly known, also welcomed the return of hymn singing.
He said that following the eased measures, he has seen crowd numbers gradually swell over the past two Sundays.
"Pre-pandemic, we could have up to 2,500 people attend our services. The first Sunday after the measures were eased, there were around 500 people who attended mass, and there were about 950 last Sunday," he said.
The National Council of Churches of Singapore said in a statement that one of the priorities of churches now is to improve physical attendance at worship services.
"(The council) hopes that with the streamlined new measures implemented... more worshippers will venture out of their homes to resume congregational life, which is so essential for the spiritual well-being of the Christian community," the statement said.
A spokesman for New Creation Church said that it was looking forward to welcoming more of its members to in-person services this Sunday.
When The Straits Times visited the Church of St Anthony of Padua in Woodlands on Friday, worshippers shuffled in and took their seats ahead of the 9am Good Friday service. The church with a 400-person capacity had 351 worshippers young and old in attendance.
While hymns were not sung, the congregation participated in a passion reading while remaining masked up.
A passion reading is a reading where the priest, the congregation and a reader, re-enact the scene of Jesus' crucifixion.
"The church is about the community. Seeing everybody back at mass and being able to participate with everyone else touches our heart," said Madam Quek, a therapist, who was with her husband, Mr Dominic Neo, 52, and their two teenage daughters Olivia, 16, and Victoria, 13.
For Mr Sreedharan Unnithan and his wife, Madam C.J. Reynold, both 38, seeing their fellow parishioners back in force was the closest thing to normality.
Madam Reynold, who works in human resources, said: "It was great to be back, the feeling of togetherness is lost online."
She was at St Anthony's on Friday and also attended Sunday's Palm Sunday Mass.
Having missed out on in-person services since the start of the pandemic in 2020, parishioner of 25 years, marketing manager Arnold Gonzales, 53, and his wife, Mrs Arlene Gonzales, 50, said that Friday morning's service was a fulfilling experience.
Mrs Gonzales, who works in a bank, said: "Having the mass in church, there's interaction and you can feeling the blessing of God. You can't get that online."