Some churches adhere to COVID-19 safety rules as they observe Good Friday

cathedral st george's
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Strict COVID-19 protocols were enforced at the St George’s Cathedral, in the Cape Town CBD, where a Good Friday service took place.

Last year, Easter services across the country were cancelled after South Africa was placed under alert level five lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

Under the current Level 1 lockdown restrictions, which were announced by President Ramaphosa earlier this week, religious gatherings have been restricted to a total number of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.

Around 50 people attended the 9am Good Friday Service at St George’s Cathedral this morning.

Strict COVID-19 safety protocols are also in place at the church. Chairs inside the church have been marked to create space and allow for social distancing. The wearing of masks is compulsory and hand sanitiser has been placed at the entrance of the church.

Congregants gather at the St George’s Cathedral to observe Easter Friday:

In the Eastern Cape, churches around Mthatha, with large numbers of worshippers, had to find alternative methods to accommodate them. Some opted for two services to adhere to COVID-19 regulations.

“We have a huge problem usually we used to gather as provinces at a big centre in Thaba Nchu. We used to gather nationally and with SADC region but now we are forced by regulations of COVID-19. It has affected us economically and also spiritually because there is a lot of damage spiritually. Hence we are happy to gather together for the first time (after a while) to celebrate our Passover as a local church,” says Ngagwelizwe Assembly of God Pastor, Zamuxolo Socikwa.

We used to gather as ministers from various members. We had to conduct sessions. I think we must encourage everyone to come to pray for this pandemic. God must intervene,” Socikwa adds.

Bethel Church and Ministries’ Paster, Sabelo Joka, says: “At first we thought we were compared to taverns but now we want to support our government because we have strategies in place. We believe they are also overwhelmed because this is a new disease.”

Despite the limitation on numbers, congregants say this is a moment they’ve been longing for.

“We pleaded with God to say, enlighten Mr Ramaphosa to open during Easter. We were saying let us challenge God and praise Him and then look at the results after worshipping during this time of Easter. This is a destructive pandemic, which has never been seen before,” says Sunday school teacher, Bulelwa Xulaba.

Welfare Committee Member, Zine Dumisani, adds: “I woke up early at 8am to be in the first group to praise. Even though we couldn’t worship last year, we had to pray in our little corners. Today we are here to revive our spirituality.”

Churches in the Eastern Cape have committed to abide by the adjusted restrictions for the duration of Easter. One which defied the regulations, refused to comment.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Christians of different denominations started the Easter weekend with a prayer to honour healthcare workers battling the coronavirus. The prayer led by the Diakonia Council of Churches was held outside the Addington Hospital in Durban.

More on it in the video below: