There is no doubt that South Africa has been hit hard, compared to other countries in terms of the closure of churches and the legislated restrictions of gathering, movement of people and trade as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
But, it was a with a great sigh of relief, that churches and Christians around the country heard that South Africa was moving to level 1 in government’s 5 stage restriction programme.
While level 3 of the restrictions permitted some form of relief for churches with the capping of numbers in a venue at 50 people and the restriction in terms of a maximum of two services per week, it was really only the smaller churches that really felt the freedom to meet. This was so, as their membership was such that they did not need to ask the question as earnestly as larger churches did, “Which 50 people?” The smaller churches could meet and some of them did so twice a week, thus making full use of the opportunity afforded to them.
However, only now, from 21 September onwards, is it really viable for the larger churches to meet and the scramble is on to open their doors and to worship together!
There is another scramble going on too; many of the elderly and shut-ins have rejoiced at the fact that their church had ‘gone on-line’ and for the first time in a long time, they could participate in the service too. My own Mom has been able to watch services in South Africa from her bedroom in Brussels. Additionally, many who would not easily attend a church service, have felt the ease and freedom to attend a church’s service anonymously. Without a doubt, the gospel has broken out from beyond the four walls of our church buildings reaching people all over the world! May God be praised! May it continue!
The scramble though, is for churches to continue to provide church live. With the churches meeting again, the push has come to continue the ‘reach out arm’ of virtual ministry. But will this encourage people back to church? Will this not provide a continued ‘stay home and grab a church service’ option for the many who have preferred the home-church virtual option, which begs the question, “Is virtual church still church?” And if it’s not, or if it’s lesser (in the same way as worship on earth is lesser than worship in Heaven) we should be thinking hard and praying hard about heading back to a sanitised, masked, but joyful collective gathering. I’m looking forward to that!
Latest Level 1 Government Gazette and COVID-19 information for churches.
Calculate the number of people that can attend in your building.