The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
CHURCH leaders heaved a sigh of relief after houses of worship were given the go ahead to reopen, as two months of a national lockdown had reportedly left some churches in financial dire straits while some missed the presence of their congregants.
Churches, which were shut as the country tightened lockdown measures at the beginning of the year, were allowed to resume physical services last week after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana, through his twitter handle on social media last week said churches had been given the green light to resume gatherings.
“Churches can congregate but shall not exceed 50 people,” he said.
In line with new regulations announced by President Mnangagwa last week, congregations are expected to observe social distancing and sanitisation measures. Only 50 congregants will be allowed per sitting.
Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) executive director Reverend Useni Sibanda said the lockdown had been hard on many churches and congregants alike, as revenue streams were cut.
“In terms of the day to day running of the church, there has been a lot of revenue loss and I can tell you right now that a lot of pastors are struggling. This is because our people have not been working and they can hardly contribute anything. Zimbabwe is a largely informal economy and so if people are sitting at home, they cannot make any money,” he said.
Rev Sibanda said while many were elated that churches were up and running again, getting congregants interested in services could be a tall order as some were now used to life in the “new normal.”
While online services were now prevalent, Rev Sibanda said a lot of pastors missed delivering services with a personal touch.
Rev Sibanda’s sentiments were echoed by Bishop Colin Nyathi of Harvest House International Church, who said the reopening of churches will be a boost as preaching with congregants present physically was uplifting.
“As a preacher nothing beats physical contact with your congregants. As a preacher you get a lift when you hear people say ‘Amen’. So, this has been hard for us while it has not been easy for congregants as well because they want to fellowship with others,” he said.
Bishop Nyathi said while the return of people to church was welcome, it did not mean they will be abandoning their online services.