The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
TITHES, the lifeblood of most churches, will be paid through mobile money while services will be livestreamed as churches prepare for life during the nationwide lockdown, with most congregations moving a step ahead as they had already suspended services for this weekend.
President Mnangagwa announced a nationwide lockdown on Friday evening that kicks off midnight today, as the country steps up efforts to confront the deadly Covid-19 (coronavirus). Before the announcement that will leave only a few essential services running, most churches had already announced the cancellation of services.
The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church cancelled its weekly service yesterday as it prepared for a lengthy period of long-distance worship with congregants encouraged to turn to digital platforms.
“To promote social distancing and minimise the spread of the virus, members will worship privately in their homes. Necessary support in the form of livestreaming, downloading or printed worship packages and sermons will be availed to members through their pastors in order to facilitate similar worship and study themes for church members until the end of the lockdown.
Offertory readings will be given out to members through the same channels for their convenience,” the head of the SDA Church in Zimbabwe, Pastor Micah Choga, said in a statement.
It was a message echoed by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) General-Secretariat, which also urged members to join their priests in Mass from their homes.
“All priests should, however, continue to celebrate Mass in their parishes without a congregation on a daily basis. The continuing celebration of Mass ensures that the faithful can be joined in the spiritual communion with the priests of the Church . . . Knowing that the Mass is being celebrated, joining in spiritually in that celebration; watching the livestreaming of the Mass where possible; following its prayers, making an act of spiritual communion: this is how we will share in the sacrifice of Christ in these days,” the ZCBC General-Secretariat said in the statement released last week.
A member at the church in Bulawayo revealed that they would be pooling together their tithes and offerings on a weekly basis to make sure that the church runs smoothly even during the lockdown.
“At the end of the day some might think that our church elders love money but the truth is that our churches run from hand to mouth. So, what we did when we had our executive meeting is we made a resolution that since we have a lockdown, we have zones that go into zonal prayers every Tuesday. Each zone has 10 to 15 families.
So we can put together our offerings and tithes and send to the church administration.
This will ensure that we have money to sustain the church because there are bills to be paid,” he said.
The leader of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) in Southern Africa Reverend Sikhalo Cele said his church would not congregate until the situation normalises.
“We will continue with the shutdown until it is resolved. We will only change our stance when we get new knowledge that is grounded on scientific and empirical evidence,” Reverend Cele said.
Reverend Eustice Ginya of the African Methodist Episcopal Church said they had instructed congregants to pay their offerings and tithes through a merchant code, as the church has suspended services.
“The upkeep of the church is still important even in such a time. We have resolved that while we won’t physically be at the church people can still pay their tithes which are important in the running of the church.
“So, we have given congregants our merchant lines and they can contribute through those platforms but we don’t know if they will comply,” he said
The leader of Harvest House International Church, Bishop Colin Nyathi said they would be running a virtual church for the next three weeks, as what defined the religious institution was its members and not the building they congregated in.
“We will now be running what we can call a virtual church. The church is not the building but rather the people, the congregants. So, while we might not be able to gather in one place anymore, we will still be running our church services through the various digital platforms that we have always had at our disposal. The building might be shut but worship does not stop.” Bishop Nyathi said.