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NC churches meet on virus

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“We also wanted to discuss the Easter weekend celebrations as it is a major event on every church calendar.”

THE NORTHERN Cape Council of Churches (NCCC) convened a meeting last night with church leaders ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on recent developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) expressed its support for a national lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19.

Ecumenical Secretary of the NCCC, Reverend Mark Makhele, said he was invited to a national church meeting last week in his capacity as the provincial co-ordinator but was not able to attend, due to flights that were cancelled.

“The meeting was attended by national church leaders and government representatives on Thursday last week. A detailed presentation was forwarded to all provinces so that all churches could follow the same guidelines.

“Each province has its own dynamics and we will need to develop a customised strategy going forward,” said Makhele.

He added that they wanted to gather input on how other churches were decreasing the number of warm bodies occupying their benches.

“We want to circulate what can be implemented effectively for churches locally, such as the pros and cons of live-streaming church services, and debate challenges that religious bodies are currently facing.

“We also wanted to discuss the Easter weekend celebrations as it is a major event on every church calendar.”

Makhele stated that a follow-up meeting was planned for today in the event that a national lockdown is declared.

“The SACC will also meet today to inform government of its decision regarding the operation of churches in the event of a national lockdown.”

He indicated that this situation called for an “extraordinary response” from the church.

“Governments across the globe have instituted stringent measures to try to stop the spreading of the virus. Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is clear that no country is immune from the disease. Governments are now dealing with both imported and internal transmissions of the virus.”

Makhele added that some churches had already implemented plans in response to the call by government.

Meanwhile, St Mary’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Kimberley stated that as part of precautionary measures it has requested the elderly and children not to attend church services until further notice.

Pastor MW Bikwe stated that they would be looking into other ways of reaching out through fellowship during the Easter weekend.

“The leadership of the church humbly requests that the vulnerable and more especially those with chronic illness abstain from attending church services, as they are highly exposed.

“We are not discriminating against any member but are looking out for the best interest of their health. We also have to restrict church members to 70 to 80 congregants.”

Bikwe requested family members to engage the church leadership so that attendance at funerals or unveiling of tombstones are restricted.

He advised church members to adhere to social distancing and to avoid crowded areas.

“We will keep an attendance register to monitor the number of members who attend our services.”