Several Churches have taken different positions to President Edgar Lungu’s direction that places of worship may reopen in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
Hours after President Lungu’s national address, Bread of Life Church International quickly announced that it will go ahead and have a norm service this Sunday whilst adhering to hygiene practices and social distancing.
However, many traditional Churches such as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Catholic Church and Anglicans have told their members not to congregate.
Even Muslims in Lusaka through the Lusaka Muslim Society have said Mosques under its jurisdiction shall remain closed until “a clear guideline is given by the authorities”.
President Lungu said churches, saloons and barbershops would be allowed to operate subject to high compliance levels of Covid prevention measures.
He also said sporting activities like golf and tennis which do not require close contact would also be allowed to take place.
But his directive to Churches has been ignored with the many Churches telling their members not to congregate.
In a message to Adventist members, Union President, Dr H. Akombwa said the Church will wait for further guidance before restarting meetings.
“Dear Fellow Leaders, Good evening and happy Sabbath. We thank God for the announcement made by the Republican President that services can resume. However, the revelation that the new cases per day has spiked to 8 is a source of serious concern. We are told that we can reopen observe all the necessary protocols of hand washing, using hand saniters, no handshakes, social distancing and wearing masks. And Government will be sending inspectors around to check. How many of our churches are ready for this? As many as are ready and can meet these requirements let them feel free to go ahead and worship maybe up to service time. Given the fact that cases have gone up today more than ever before, we have decided to wait for the daily updates up to Monday before we can make an official pronouncement. Thank you,” read the notice.
At Central Church, members were asked to worship from home.
“Kindly note that there will be no worship services at the Lusaka Central Church tomorrow Sabbath 25 April, 2020.”
“Digital worship services will continue on Hope Channel and our Facebook and YouTube platforms until further notice. Members are encouraged to continue taking all reasonable measures to avoid contracting COVID19.”
And Admin Elder from University Church Br. Titus Ng’andu said there will be no church meeting today.
“There will be no meeting at church as we are not able to meet all the health guidelines with regard to COVID-19. We will continue with live streaming through mixlr and facebook. The church will be informed in due course on how we proceed going forward. Please note that the risk is still very high as evidenced by surging numbers.“
Meanwhile, Religious Affairs Minister Rev. Godfridah Sumaili is on Saturday expected to hold a meeting with church leaders to provide further guidance on the reopening of Churches.
“Following the pronouncement by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia to allow churches to worship normally subject to observing the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs will give more clarity by outlining what is expected of the churches to ensure protection of lives and prevention of human to human transmission. This will be done in Consultation with the Ministry of Health and the church mother bodies and other Religions Organizations. Guidelines will be ready by mid day tomorrow Saturday,” read a message from her office.
Rev. Sumaili added, “We profusely thank His Excellency the President for His wise leadership in this trying time and the respect and confidence he has in our spiritual leadership.
The Catholic Church in Lusaka and Chipata says no mass should game place on Sunday.
Lusaka Archdiocese Bishop Dr. Alick Banda directed that the Church does not resume public celebrations but wait for further guidance.
And the Salvation Army it shall not resume Church meetings until further guidance is provided.
Muslims under Lusaka Muslim Society will also not be meeting.
LMS Chairman Suleman Patel made the announcement in a circular Friday evening.
“We therefore request the entire community to please be patient as we seek further guidance and clarity in the matter. We will inform you as soon as we get further clarity on the matter,” Patel guided.