Heaven can wait... mother's not going near a church

Kwanele Ndlovu Singles Lane
Durbanville Gemeente in Cape Town under lockdown on May 27. / Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
Durbanville Gemeente in Cape Town under lockdown on May 27. / Gallo Images/Jacques Stander

The first thing I did when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that churches and all other institutions of religion would be allowed to congregate during alert level 3 of the national lockdown, was to call mother.

I only greeted her, and said nothing thereafter. I knew she could read my silence. She knew why I was calling, and she could tell exactly how I felt about the church thing.

"Awuyi lapho!"

Boy did she laugh when I said that. She had used those words on me plenty times during my teen years.

It was now my turn to be the disciplinarian and draw the line. I know exactly what happens on Sundays in that small room they use for church. Worse, she can hardly breathe comfortably under a mask, let alone reject a handshake from a fellow Baptist or measure just how far one-and-a-half metres is on the benches. Even getting there in a local taxi is a great risk. Contrary to ministerial pronouncements, the operators are taking full loads.

I know how much religious people are craving their spiritual homes, especially the elderly, who keep their tickets paid up, starch their collars and ensure that their stockings have not run.

I understand people's reactions to congregants who had breached the regulations and went ahead, at the call of the spirit, and arranged worship meetings.

We were inundated with images and videos of believers clad in their Sunday best, some carrying big gongs being apprehended by the police.

It struck me that in most cases that were reported in our poor communities, the majority of the congregants were women. Some even had their children on their backs.

It was our mothers who had risked it all and succumbed to the call of their religious leaders to congregate - vulnerable women who desperately needed the spiritual scholarship they become accustomed to. I too would have called the army if I had heard that mother was out there singing about a house in Jerusalem and dancing to the acoustics.

I recalled how my own mother, after a debilitating stroke, insisted on rolling up her foam mattress and joining her church community for the Easter weekend camp far away from home.

She endured nights of sleeping in a hall and the communal setup. Suggesting that she puts up in a B&B meant she would miss out on sporadic praise and worship, important announcements, the whole comradeship and the gossip. She wanted to be part of the culture.

I do not know if she would successfully rebel against any practice or activity that would increase her risk of contracting the virus this Sunday. Or even reprimand those who want to sing with their masks off and, taking her walking stick, move away from them. I do not want to find out.

I spent many years of my life taking counsel and stern instructions from mother. But hey, I am the adult now, she is a pensioner.

I have no qualms with dragging her out of church and grounding her for six months. Right now, all I need is for her to not court corona, not even with the knowledge that it may expedite her meeting her maker.

Heaven can wait, because mother is not going anywhere near a church!

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