Pastors open up and voice concerns over the limits on churches

Pastors open up and voice concerns over the limits on churches

- As churches prepare to open under lockdown lLvel 3, church leaders are concerned about attendance

- They are not sure which model will be the best to accommodate their congregants under the restrictions imposed by the government

- Churches have been urged to only open if they are able to observe social distancing regulations

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As churches prepare to open under lockdown Level 3, church leaders have to find ways to get their congregants to attend church services while observing social distancing regulations.

In other parts of the world, people attend church services in parking lots and listen to the sermons over live streams.

The SowetanLive spoke to a number of pastors to find out how they were planning on reopening.

Other possible scenarios include limiting the number of people in one room.

Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng of Incredible Happenings Ministries revealed the following:

"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."

Pastor Lungelo Ngwenya from Christian Life Worship Centre in Tembisa said that they would hold multiple sessions for congregants to attend.

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"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 that the limits on the number of people would make holding services difficult, according to SowetanLive.

"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 that his services would have to held in three separate sessions.

"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 cautioned churches who planned to open from June 1 to do so in line with the social distancing regulations.

"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."

A bishop in KwaZulu-Natal was fined R1 500 for breaking the lockdown said that the government should compensate churches to have to shut during the lockdown so that they would be able to continue operating.

Leader of God's Church Must Rise, Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, has said that classifying churches as an essential service so late into the lockdown will have serious ramifications.

"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 in an interview with Radio 702.

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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