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Churches work out plans for limited entry, open-air services

Friday July 10 2020
bishops

Archbishop Philip Anyolo prays for a deacon during an ordination of six into priesthood at St Theresa’s Cathedral Kibuye Catholic Church in Kisumu on July 9, 2020. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM

Churches are going out of their way to meet the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health for all places of worship as a precondition for a phased reopening.

Some are planning to hold open-air services in an effort to ensure social distancing and keep worshippers safe from Covid-19. Among them is the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), which has adjusted its services, with Nyanza Bishop Simon Onyango saying all services will be conducted outdoors.

The church will also limit service duration to one hour. This is expected to affect aspects of worship such as announcements, greetings and testimonies.

In Bomet and Kericho, Father Ambrose Kimutai of Segemik Catholic Parish said the church will conduct mass in an open field where children and the elderly will also be allowed to attend.

“We have enough open ground that can accommodate thousands. We will not be using the church building for the service,” said Father Kimutai.

STAGGERED SERVICE

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Reverend Felix Korir of the African Gospel Church (AGC) in Bomet town said service would be staggered through the day: “At AGC Imani, we will have four different services with at least 100 worshippers each.”

In Vihiga, worshippers will sign a visitor’s book before attending mass at St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church in Mbale. The priest, Fr Marin Chibole, said the register will help in identifying and tracing contacts when it is required.

Temperatures will also be taken, with worshippers being asked to hand in their offering right at the entrance to avoid crowding. Seven masses lasting an hour each have been planned with only 100 people in attendance.

At Christ the Healer Cathedral in Homa Bay town, seats have been marked to ensure social distancing. The church has also obtained thermometer guns to check temperatures and hand sanitisers for maintaining hygiene. The same goes for churches in Kisii, Migori and Nyamira.

In Kakamega, Bishop Joseph Obanyi of the Kakamega Catholic Diocese has scheduled a meeting at the Bishop Stam Pastoral Centre today to come up with a programme for the services.

At St Joseph Cathedral, sitting arrangements have been adjusted to ensure the half-a-metre distance between worshippers. At the Salvation Army, Kakamega Citadel Church, the management had called in a team to clean up the church premises and mark the sitting arrangements.

FUMIGATION

Captain Bramwel Wanjala, who is in charge of the church, said there were preparations to fumigate the building, which normally accommodated up to 400 people.

“We have decided to have four one-hour services comprising 100 people each,” he said.

In Kisumu, Rabour Parish has set up hand-washing equipment at the church entrance and adjusted the seating arrangement for social distancing. Christians will have to sit in threes per bench. Father Vincent Onyango said there will be three Holy masses starting Sunday, July 19.

In Kisii, evangelical church leaders are pushing for the full reopening to enable all members to attend. They say it is discriminatory to lock out the elderly and children in the name of minimising Covid-19 infections.

They said respective church leaders should be allowed the discretion to arrange how worshippers will sit to ensure social distancing.

“We have big churches that can accommodate more than 100 and still operate within the guidelines of social distancing,” said Reverend Charles Isaboke, the regional group chair. He termed the restrictions punitive. He said elders play a special role in church services and should not be discriminated against.

“Elders are spiritual shepherds and locking them out robs the churches of a special category,” said Rev Isaboke, who was flanked by other officials, among them Mr Joseph Ondari, Mr Peter Marema and Mr Nyanugo Omambia.

 Also in a dilemma is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which will be learning to adjust to holding one-hour services. Their regular services often run throughout the day.

Reporting by George Odiwuor, Vitalis Kimutai, Derick Luvega, Benson Amadala, Elizabeth Ojina, Ruth Mbula and Wycliffe Nyaberi

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