Mashudu Netsianda and Leonard Ncube, Chronicle Reporters
MOST churches cancelled their traditional Easter retreat with the religious organisations opting to live streaming their services to congregants.
However, the few that conducted physical services conformed to the lockdown regulations with gatherings not exceeding 50 congregants.
In some cases, police moved around monitoring churches to ensure compliance.
Easter, also called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday when Christians will be commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Under the relaxed lockdown regulations, gatherings at funerals are still restricted to 30 people with other public gatherings not supposed to exceed 50 people.
Churches are allowed to congregate only if there are 50 or less members in attendance and exercise personal hygiene coupled with wearing face masks.
Chronicle news crew today visited selected churches in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls and observed the most of the church buildings were under lock and key.
At the Apostolic Faith Church of Portland Oregon in Pelandaba suburb, there were handful of congregants following a sermon, which was being live stream.
Chronicle also observed that members were being sanitised at the entrance before accessing the church building and after the service.
Mr Dennis Ngwenya, chairman of the parish pastoral council at the St Adolph Ludigo Roman Catholic Church in New Magwegwe said they have staggered Sunday church services to accommodate three groups of congregants.
“We have a membership of more than 1 000 congregants, but due to the lockdown regulations allowing a gathering of only 50 people, we have introduced three slots so that we cater for at least 150 per day throughout Easter, “he said.
Senior Pastor at the Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa, Reverend Partson Magalela said they disinfected the church building before the start of the Easter service in line with national Covid-19 guidelines and World Health Organisation (WHO) health regulations.
He said the church has 22 branches in Bulawayo and today they were worshiping in groups of 50 people in various suburbs in the city.
“We started our Easter meeting on Thursday evening and the services will run until Monday. We are following all the health protocols and limited our numbers to 50 of less and everyone is being checked temperature and sanitised at the gate,” he said.
Senior Pastor in charge of Brethren in Christ Church (BICC), Bulawayo Central, Rev Ndabezinhle Nyathi said they opted to live stream their services during Easter.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) leader for the Western Diocese, Bishop Michael Dube said they were conducting both physical and virtual services during Easter.
Bishop Dube said they are also encouraging their followers to open WhatsApp groups for the purposes of sharing the sermons, scriptures and songs during the Easter holiday.
“Some of our congregants have created WhatsApp groups for our members and I believe, it is quite an effective way of spreading the message of salvation as it reaches a wider audience. However, in some branches we are conducing physical services,” he said.
Madzibaba Emmanuel Mutumwa, leader of apostolic sect, Johane Masowe weChishanu in Selbourne Park said they limited the numbers of congregants in line with lockdown regulations.
“We are big organisation and under normal circumstance we had about 10 000 people congregating in this shrine during this period, but due to lockdown regulations we have limited the number to 50,” he said.
Madzibaba Mutumwa said they are staggering their services to accommodate more people during Easter.
In Victoria Falls the Catholic Church had activities in the afternoon starting with the way of the Cross, a traditional practice associated with Good Friday before Mass.
Members of the church observed social distancing and were also wearing masks. Other churches did not open for Easter services.
Police were reportedly driving around in a vehicle checking churches to ensure compliance and adherence to Covid-19 safety precautions.
Government has put in place the necessary precautionary measures to curb the recurrence of a spike in Covid-19 during the Easter holiday with security agencies out in full force to ensure that citizens comply with the lockdown regulations.