Archbishop Kaziimba Responds to Closure of Churches, Issues New Worship Guidelines

The Archbishop of the Province of Uganda, the Most Rev. Dr Stephen Samuel Kaziimba says that the directive to close places of worship will have a big impact on the way Christians live and worship.

This is carried in his pastoral letter to Bishops, Clergy and Christians in response to President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to close all places of worship with immediate effect.

Museveni’s directive is among the several measures issued on Wednesday to tame the spread of Corona Virus currently ravaging the world.

 According to Kaziimba, Museveni’s directive to close down all public religious gatherings, including churches, for 32 days is like the advice of a father to his children on the best way to stay safe and healthy. 

“While it will be very difficult for us to not gather together, we stand with His Excellency in this decision because it will help save lives. As Christians and as the church, we value life and support all efforts to promote life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” reads part of Kaziimba’s pastoral letter.

 He recounts that in his Charge as new Archbishop, he encouraged the church to develop new tools for ministry and outreach, including radio, television, and social media yet he never expected the need for the new tools to come so quickly. 

“But, here we are. A great evangelist once said, “Your setback can be a setup for our comeback.” says Kaziimba.

He adds that several people have questioned him on how prayers would be conducted in the absence of congregating on Sundays and mid-week. Kaziimba says that this will be hard but that Christians should be assured of Jesus’ words, of “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” quoting Matthew 18.18.

He advises faithful to make use of Home Cells saying they are the ideal place for Sunday worship to take place. He says that some cells may need to sub-divide so that they are no more than 10 people. 

“But, Sunday worship can take place with home cells in homes, observing, of course, the appropriate behaviours of not shaking hands or hugging and keeping at least one metre of distance between you and others. If you’re sick, please stay home,” he explains. 

“I am calling on all husbands and fathers to step up and take responsibility for leading your families in daily home prayers and Sunday worship. The Family is the smallest church, and every home needs its “Family Altar.” Some churches have developed the capacity for online streaming of worship services. I call on you to expand that capacity for also broadcasting services without the presence of a congregation. Please also share with your diocese and the provincial office the times and online address for these broadcasts, so others can benefit,” the Archbishop guides.

He further asked all Bishops to develop what he described as “Radio Church,” and also asked radio stations to collaborate with the church under these extraordinary circumstances and provide airtime on Sunday mornings to broadcast local language worship services into every home.

The Bishops are encouraged to link with local TV stations for ways to broadcast a local language Sunday service through television. He emphasized that the current situation should remind all Christians of the great need for a church TV station, as I identified in his Charge.

The Archbishop says that he will be recording a daily devotion to be circulated on social media and encourages Christians to access the devotion through the Church of Uganda’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

“Please, take the initiative and be a blessing to your neighbours by singing songs of praise and worship together in our communities…but at a distance. I also want to encourage Christians to reach out to one another in as many ways as possible – phone calls, text messages, social media – so we continue to encourage one another in our faith. This is especially important for the elderly and those who may be isolated. Please make sure they have the practical, emotional, and spiritual support of the Christian community,” Kaziimba further guides.

Meanwhile, he cautions the faithful not to neglect to worship God through their tithes and offerings. He says that Bishops and Clergy should explain to their Christians how to use online banking, if available, to continue giving weekly tithes and offerings.

“Alternatively, using Mobile Money may be another means. It may be possible to pass by your local church during the week and give your offering privately. If none of those is available, I urge every Christian to set aside their weekly tithes and offerings. When we do come back together again – and, we will! – we will have a big in-gathering as a Thanksgiving to God for his great faithfulness (Lam 3.21-23),” says the Archbishop.

 He appealed that this season is a season of prayer and fasting for the people and Uganda. 

“When the Lord shows you areas you need to repent personally, please do it. When we have the State of Emergency, we also need Prayers of Emergency. So, I also call on the President to declare a weekly Day of National Prayer during this season to bring us all together in repentance and faith,” he appeals.

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