South Africa observes Passover and Easter celebrations under unprecedented times. Usually during this period, thousands of South Africans embark on sacred and spiritual pilgrimages, however, this time around the script has changed. This is due to the nationwide lockdown implemented by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa as a measure to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, President Ramaphosa met with religious leaders to urge them to join the fight against the virus. Religious leaders play a key role in ensuring the health and well-being of their communities.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) appealed to church leaders across the country to adhere with the lockdown restrictions. General-Secretary of SACC, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said; “The main concern for the South African Council of Churches is the impact the outbreak could have on the poorer communities. Pray for the best and prepare for the worst”.
Prior to the lockdown churches had taken safety precautions such as; providing congregants with sanitizers, reinforcing social distancing by limiting the number of congregants in attendance and dividing the church membership into groups with different time slots.
This week marked the second Sunday into the nationwide lockdown, religious leaders and congregants have found inventive ways not to miss a Sunday service of praise and worship. Thanks to technology, online platforms are a saving grace to Sunday services. Many churches have opted for this route and each adding their unique flair of delivery.
Church On-The-Line is an online church platform by the Hillsong Church that not only allows you to select a desired time to stream a service but also, gives you the option to download audio and readable versions.
Grace Family Church provides pre-recorded sermons with the church’s co-senior pastor Tom Basson. He shared insight that they had more people connecting digitally than attending church physically. “We had 11 000 views and we normally have about 5000 attendees on a Sunday between our four campuses. The church does well in times of crisis. In times of uncertainty, people are looking for certainty and hope”.
The Jewish community under the South African Jewish Board of Deputies(SAJBD) has launched the Hatzolah Covid-19 Wellness programme for community members who have tested positive for COVID-19. It is a supportive platform with COVID-19 wellness volunteers and they also make use of a Facebook page that shares valuable information.
Another strongly used contender amongst congregants is WhatsApp, which has become a support group for many and a quick dial in for the word of the day.
Minister of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams earlier called on the media industry to assist the religious sector.
DStv answered the call with a new pop up channel catering for various Christianity consortiums to be launched on 9 April 2020. The channel, named Africa Easter Channel, is in collaboration with the renowned TBN Africa, DStv Channel 343.
Mr Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, said: “We are happy to have immediately responded to the minister’s call to assist millions of South African worshippers who regard Easter as a pivotal period of worship. As a responsible broadcaster, we are more than happy to partner with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies as we afford worshippers to observe Easter from the comfort of their homes.”
Popular gospel artists recorded messages submitted by churches such as Methodist, Anglican and Catholic which will feature prominently on the channel.
The spirit of giving shan’t be hindered by a global pandemic, instead strengthens communities. The South African Muslim COVID-19 Response Task Team donated about R7 million to organisations that are helping communities affected by the virus.
Indeed, the Thuma Mina moment is upon South Africa, as never before. It is evidently clear that various religious leaders are all singing from the same hymn book and united in prayer. Keeping the faith through online platforms, on beck and call to the less fortunate and resolute to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Religious leaders have shown tremendous leadership during this time, regularly offering prayer and words of support to their communities; surely the country shall prevail.
Coronavirus Hotline Number: 0800 029 999 from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Help protect your loved ones by sharing this official South African government COVID-19 service with your family, friends and community. Send HI to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp.