Sermons move online as the Church heeds state directive
Closed gates, deserted compounds and empty pews characterised a majority of churches across the country yesterday as they heeded to the government ban on public meetings, including religious gatherings.
Instead, most faithful resorted to online sermons from various churches in efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country. Some families turned living rooms while most churches broadcast their sermons live on social media platforms and on television.
Head of Catholic Church in the world Pope Francis presided over mass from Casa Santra Marta in the Vatican with just a handful of faithful and urged Christians to keep praying for the situation caused by the pandemic.
“I am thinking of the many people who are weeping. People who are isolated and in quarantine, people in hospitals, parents who do not foresee receiving a salary and do not know how to feed their children, many are crying and even in their own hearts,” said the pontiff, who has been tested for the virus two times after coming into contact with infected persons. He tested negative both times.
“We, too, accompany them from our hearts. It would not do us any harm to weep a bit as our Lord wept for all of His people.
Lord weep with your people who in this moment are suffering a lot many are crying today,” he added.
Catholic Archbishop of Nairobi John Cardinal Njue urged Christians to remain strong in faith and take a moment to deeply reflect on the passion of Jesus Christ who suffered death and resurrected to give people a new life.
“We are at a difficult time because of this coronavirus disease, we are aware of the difficulty there is for Christians not being able to congregate but I am confident that through online worship, the word of God has been able to reach them.
We encourage you Christians that difficult as this situation may be, let us not lose hope and know that even where there are difficulties, the Lord never leaves us,” said Njue, via a televised mass conducted at the Holy Family Minor Basilica.
He urged Kenyans to adhere to the safety measures put in place by the government and remain calm in the wake of the pandemic, while at the same time remembering to share with the poor.
Former PCEA General Assembly Moderator Jesse Kamau, who also presided service online, urged Kenyans to allow God to show the country the way.
“At a time like this, there are many voices but let us listen to the voice of God. We should stand firm as God teaches us.
We may not know what tomorrow holds but His grace is sufficient. People have sinned against God and should repent,” said Rev Kamau.
Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) Presiding Bishop David Oginde delivered a sermon online, with the theme “Down but not out”.
“God is greater than Covid-19,” he said, and urged people to remain faithful.
In Siaya, some pastors prayed alone in deserted churches. But at some St Pantaleon Catholic Church, some worshippers especially the elderly, turned up for personal prayers, observing social distance.
In Nakuru, churches remained closed, with many opting for virtual services.
A spot check by People Daily indicated that a majority of places of worship, including Buddhist temples, had directed their faithful to stay at home until the government advises otherwise.
Police officers and county enforcement officers patrolled the town to ensure there were no public gatherings.
County commissioner Erastus Mbui called for compliance to avoid confrontations.
Pastor Michael Mwani of the Evangelical Christian Church said they beamed all their services online.
“We all want to hear the word of God. We can use technology to stream online our services and in fact we reach millions without endangering their lives,” said Mwani.
In Kisii and Nyamira, church leaders urged the National government to involve them in the fight against coronavirus, saying they have networks at the grassroots.
South Nyanza ACK Diocese bishop John Orina refuted claims that the church was aiding the spread of the deadly virus.
Reading a statement on behalf of Gusii Gospel Ministers Forum, he said the church collaborates with the government in education, health, civic education, peace building, conflict-resolution and was ready to work with the State in the campaign against the pandemic.
“We are alarmed by the impression is being created in minds of citizens that the church is the weakest link in the fight against the pandemic” said the bishop.
In Trans Nzoia county, Mary Immaculate Cathedral, which on a normal Sunday draws nearly 1,500 faithful, remained closed. The faithful followed mass on radio and television.
Bishop Anthony Maurice Crowley said the faithful had been instructed to remain at home and listen to the mass that was conducted by Cardinal Njue.
“Our Churches in the Diocese of Kitale have been instructed to stay at home in conformity with the government directive of avoiding overcrowding and instead follow the Archbishop celebrate televised mass,” he said.
And in Garissa town, churches and remained shut. Mosques in the area and neighbouring Tana River county have remained closed for the past one week.
Many Christians resorted to online and other social media platforms for their scriptures. Others have formed WhatsApp worship groups where they share daily scriptures, prayers and government directives regarding the virus.
It was a similar situation in Kiambu and Mombasa counties, where Christians took to social media to share biblical teachings, while others followed televised sermons from the comfort of their houses.
Meanwhile, police in Kitale arrested a pastor for ignoring the ban and holding a church service.
Pastor Ben Tali of the Impact Healing Mega Church was arrested alongside 20 worshippers and were detained at Kitale police station. Trans Nzoia Deputy county commissioner Abdullahi Khalifa confirmed the incident.