The Zimbabwe Heads of Church Denominations (ZHOCD) has written an urgent letter to the government requesting that churches be opened after stricter COVID-19 conditions were imposed.
In a letter addressed to the Chief Coordinator of the National Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the President's Office and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, the ZHOCD member churches requested for a review of lockdown measures to allow churches to open, but with limited members.
“We are requesting that this restriction be reviewed to allow limited numbers of people to gather following the Covid-19 protocols such as record keeping to ensure contact tracing, keeping physical distance, putting on masks and sanitizing of premises and hands”, read the letter.
The letter pointed out that the church has an important role in these COVID times, which includes psycho-social support and resource mobilization for people that are affected by COVID-19.
“The continued role of Churches to provide pastoral care, mobilize resources for humanitarian response and give hope to the nation needs to be supported in this time of the pandemic. Therefore we further request that the Church be engaged and consulted as much as possible to better assist the Government in fighting this pandemic.”
The letter was written by Pastor B. Makwara (EFZ General Secretary), Rev E. Tsvakai (UDACIZA General Secretary), Father F. Chiromba (ZCBC General Secretary) and Rev Dr K. Mtata (ZCC General Secretary).
The move by ZHOCD has been supported by church groups and leaders who felt that the church can work closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure that WHO regulations are adhered to.
The ZCA board chair Rev Obert Shatai welcomed the move by the heads of denominations as welcome and strongly supported by clergy.
"Our churches have always been responsible and adhered to all the WHO regulations which involved wearing of masks, sanisatization and keeping safe distance when people are in worship," said Rev Shatai.
Rev Shatai also pointed out that churches always offered spacious venues which are able to ensure spacing and safe distance between congregates.
" Our facilities are less crowded than the public transport and shopping facilities," he said.
Rev Shatai also said that ZCA will continue to work with Covid-19 TaskForce teams to ensure that awareness raising exercises are conducted.
Pastor Kilton Moyo, who is a counselor and author, emphasized that churches should be open especially considering how the lockdown is being controlled.
“Churches should be opened considering how the current lockdown is being managed. Many other crowd pullers, places, or entities that congest people like public transport and shops are being congested. As long as they are open, I don’t see the reason why the church should close ,“said Pastor Moyo
Pastor Moyo also pointed out that the church does not necessarily congest people, and besides, it "observes social distancing and all other COVID-19 specifications. For me, I feel the government is being spiteful in closing the church.” added Pastor Moyo
“It's not just COVID-19, and that churches have crowds; we were allowed to open and function with only 50 people and we managed that so well and no one has come to show us statistics of people infected through church", said Pastor Moyo.
He also encouraged the church to systematically organize itself so as to be relevant and effective.
“The church needs to organize itself in a better way so that it can offer relevant services to the current situation. I don’t want to think that these people are rubbing the church as it were, but they are not seeing outside our Sunday and Saturday gatherings. They are not seeing anything impactful and important to them that we are doing for the community. ” said Pastor Moyo.