WORSHIP SERVICES IN THE CONTEXT OF COVID 19
Following the announcement of the national lockdown on the 27th of March 2020 by His Excellence, President ED Mnangagwa, Church Halls closed doors to worshippers in a bid to slow infections and flatten the curve. On the 11th of June, President ED Mnangagwa announced that places of worship could now be opened with no more than 50 participants and adhere to the social distance and hygiene protocols. The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, which represents the majority of Christian Churches in Zimbabwe, has designed some guidelines to assist member churches to resume worship life and Christian fellowship in ways that minimize the chances of infection. We urge the Methodist community to read and share the guidelines. We are opening Churches at a time when positive cases are rising, therefore we appeal to all the leaders of our Church to only open when all the rules and regulations are put in place.
1. Each and every Society or gathering is being asked to appoint a person who will be responsible in making sure that the guidelines and protocols are being followed.
2. Provide washing points for all entries where congregants will wash their hands with running disinfectant water.
3. Sanitize everyone’s hands before entry.
3.1. No one will be allowed into the place of worship without a face mask covering the mouth and the nose and worshippers should wear masks throughout the service.
4. Screen using an infrared Thermometer, record each and every person’s temperature in a register and allow entry to those within the WHO recommended range.
5. No church service or gathering shall exceed 50 people.
6. Size of the congregation and the size of the church hall will determine number of services per society. 50 people may not fit in a small church hall and therefore we encourage having services in open spaces. Each society will need to design a church register putting members into groups of 50.
It is important to record addresses of congregants in the register and possibly their phone numbers. This is done to ease contact tracing.
7. Social distance to be followed without compromise and strictly make sure proper physical distance of 1.5 to 2 meters distance between the persons sitting or standing is one and a half to two metres in each direction.
We are encouraging that physical marks be put in place indicating where to sit or stand and encourage households to sit or stand together.
8. Encourage social distancing on entry as well as when people leave the church hall or the place of worship.
9. Fumigate or sanitize the place of worship before entry of members and after service and this applies even to those who will be taking turns in using the place of worship.
10. Regularly sanitize door handles and handrails.
11. Children’s services should be combined with adult services so that parents can take care of their children to avoid complications in contact tracing.
13. Traditional or liturgical touching ( such as hand greeting, peace greeting) is to be avoided.
14. Singing together carries a particularly high risk of infection and so we need to exercise extreme caution.
Please do not rush opening your church halls or places of worship when you have not put in place the social distance and hygiene protocols provided by WHO and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare which we have interpreted in this communique. Those with challenges and those who will need help, especially those in the rural areas who may find it expensive to buy sanitizers and disinfectants, please follow protocols. The District Bishops and Lay Presidents are there to help us. We exist to preserve human life and the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe will do all it can to provide safe places of worship.
A formal and detailed communique that will include, sacraments, celebrations, conventions, funeral services and weddings is on its way.
For now, please be guided accordingly. Above all things let us trust in the Lord and we will be like Mt Zion which cannot be moved. (Psalm 125:1)