As South Africa’s government tries to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, houses of worship have been particularly impacted by guidelines to limit gatherings to fewer than 100 people. But they are finding ways to reach their flocks as the virus spreads.
Churches and other houses of worship in mainly Christian South Africa are a lot quieter these days.
Many churches and synagogues started livestreaming this past weekend, and mosques in the Rainbow Nation asked the faithful to instead meet in small groups. Worshipers, accustomed to praying shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowded environment, spaced themselves out.
Emmanuel Egbebu is the organist at Christ the King Anglican Church in southern Johannesburg. On Sunday, he played to a nearly empty church. Usually, 400 people show up for worship services. This Sunday, 58 of the faithful turned up.
The choir too, had few members. In an interview via Skype, Egbebu said he took further precautions.
“I made sure to isolate myself from the congregation as much as possible. So the organ is situated in a very different place entirely, in a different cubicle. So you don’t really have to worry so much about having contact with the other people in the church,” he said.
Ganief Hendricks heads the Al Jama-ah political party, which advocates for the rights of Muslim South Africans. He said the Muslim community should heed the government’s guidelines.
“We hope that you will have the wisdom of Solomon, and give more leadership to the country, Allah knows best,” said Hendricks.
Egbebu, for his part, said that in times like this, music matters.
“This pandemic is going to last just for a few months, but music is going to stay. So the decisions we make now might affect the outcome at the end of the pandemic that we hope is going to go away soon. And we hope to continue to pray as much as we can for people. And music is my way of reaching out to people,” he said.
For believers, this crisis presents a unique – but not insurmountable – test of faith.
Source: Voice of America