Covid-19: With Stringent Procedures In Place, Successful Services Held
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God holds national day of prayer and fasting complying with all government restrictions
On Sunday 22 March 2020, one week after South Africa was placed in a state of national disaster because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God held a national day of prayer and fasting, responding to the Biblical direction in 2 Chronicles 7:14: If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
For a church with hundreds of thousands of members and churches throughout the country, the logistics to continue holding services while complying with the restrictions to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, involves stringent and disciplined procedures. Already services are being held every 20 minutes to ensure that numbers remain below 100 people.
The Universal Church is one of the fastest growing Pentecostal churches nationally with 15,000 members attending the Sunday services at Park Station, 25 Plein Street in the Johannesburg CBD and 7,000 in Soweto every Sunday. Services are held every day of the week as well. The Universal Church has almost 400 churches and 375 prayer cells throughout the country.
A comprehensive communication initiative was conducted to convey information to all Bishops and Pastors and on Sunday 22 March, all services proceeded without incident.
Both the Park Station and Soweto Cathedrals hold an average of five services on Sundays and they were more than doubled on Sunday 22 March to enable everyone who wanted to attend, to be able to do so. Members of the Universal Church who are nurses and doctors are at the door of the church, helping to sanitise people’s hands and enquiring whether they have any symptoms of Covid-19. Assistants seated people leaving one or two seats empty between everyone to ensure they were separated by at least 1m.
20,000 information leaflets were printed last week and distributed nationally showing simple graphics on how to prevent the spread of the virus, listing symptoms and giving guidance on what to do if you feel ill. 9,000 were handed to members visiting the Johannesburg Cathedral. 175,000 copies of the Universal Church’s weekly newspaper also contained information about Coronavirus. These are distributed to members and in communities nationally each week.
Besides the regular members, there were many police officers and public service representatives present. The services were broadcast live on the Church’s social media channels.
Prior to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on Sunday 15 March, the Church had already postponed a proposed visit to the Temple of Solomon in Brazil. On Monday 16 March, the Universal Church cancelled all proposed meetings and volunteer visits to correctional centres, hospitals, old age homes and orphanages until further notice. The Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday services were cancelled nationally.
Last week the church leadership sent communications to all those in voluntary service as well as members, advising on the social distancing requirements and the need for personal hygiene.
On Monday 16 March, the following measures were introduced at Universal Churches:
- Displays of factual information from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
- Provision of hand sanitiser, where possible to disinfect hands and help prevent infection spreading.
- Pastors and volunteers have been instructed not to have close physical contact with each other and members during services.
- No baptism services will be held and no laying on of hands is permitted.
- Volunteers and members have been educated on social distancing which is an important way to prevent infecting others. Do not shake hands with anyone. Rather wave or bump elbows.
- Basic prevention measures have been communicated to volunteers and members: cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use a tissue and dispose of it or cough into your sleeve if you do not have a tissue available.
- Additional services are being held every 20 minutes to avoid large crowds of more than 100 people.
- All non-essential travel has been cancelled.
- The elderly, those with compromised health and pregnant women have been advised not to attend services, but to watch programming on the church’s social media platforms.
The Universal Church stands with all South Africans in this difficult and uncertain time, but will not distance themselves from their social responsibilities and will continue to serve those who need prayer, guidance and spiritual support.
The Church leadership continues to pray for protection and healing for those who are ill, and encourages all members, and indeed all South Africans, to take precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus. We pray that our people and our country will be blessed.