Churches concerned about limits to services

Prophet Paseka 'Mboro' Motsoeneng of Incredible Happenings Ministries. / Veli Nhlapo
Prophet Paseka 'Mboro' Motsoeneng of Incredible Happenings Ministries. / Veli Nhlapo

You've seen church leaders in other countries preach to congregants while they sit in their cars.

This could be the new norm for you too as churches find ways to get people to attend services while ensuring that they do not come into contact with one another and risk spreading the deadly coronavirus.

Other measures being considered by churches include increasing the number of services to be held a day to limit the number of people in one room.

Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng of Incredible Happenings Ministries, a charismatic church in Katlehong, said: "We will be holding services in sessions and we will have sound outside, allowing people to park their cars outside the church structure to be able to be part of the services and worship in their cars," said Motsoeneng, better known as Pastor Mboro.

"We will be praying for wisdom and direction to find a solution to this global crisis..."

Mboro said he would be supplying all his congregants with sanitisers.

Pastor Lungelo Ngwenya from Christian Life Worship Centre in Tembisa said they were excited to hold spiritual gatherings again.

Ngwenya said they had not yet planned how the services would be held yet.

"But we said we will be holding different sessions to allow congregants to worship. The services will be monitored fairly to allow everyone the opportunity to participate in church activities, not only the services," said Ngwenya.

Bishop Timothy Ngcobo of eThekweni Community Church said the number of congregants allowed to attend services would make it tricky for them to be able to conduct services.

"My church is going to be open. The major challenge we will be facing is that we have about 1,000 congregants, but now we have to limit that number to 50. We will have to open a big church for a limited number of people," Ngcobo said.

He said they will have to split their service into three to accommodate more congregants.

"There are financial implications in the process but there is nothing we can do. We have to abide by the regulations. Another challenge for us will be how to sing with masks on. It's going to be difficult but we have to do it."

Michael Swan, executive director at Freedom of Religion SA, warned that churches which considered reopening should do so in line with the restrictions that will be in place from June 1.

"In this regard, it is important to note that although the President [Cyril Ramaphosa] has said that places of worship can reopen, it does not mean that they must do so. Some may see gathering together as an essential tenet of their faith; others may not. Equally, members of each faith community must decide for themselves whether or not to attend, based upon their personal health risk assessment and taking into account the possible knock-on effect on the most vulnerable members of our society."

While a KwaZulu-Natal bishop who paid a R1,500 fine for breaching lockdown regulations yesterday said the government should compensate churches for the weeks they were forced to shut their doors and did not receive income in the form of tithes and offerings, Mboro had a different view.

Leader of God's Church Must Rise, Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, said the move by government to recognise churches as essential services only on lockdown level 3 has had dire consequences.

"We are still going to challenge that in terms of compensating the church. There are churches that already lost their place of worship. They were renting and now they lost it because the [premises] owners want money, lockdown or no lockdown," Ngcobo said.

He was speaking in an interview on radio 702 yesterday.

Mboro said the reopening of churches is not about making money. "Churches must find ways and projects that will raise funds and keep churches going. We cannot rely on government to subsidise our churches because there are too many churches.

"Churches should learn to self-govern, self-fundraise and to self-regulate," he said.

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