On 6th July 2020, the president announced a phased reopening of worship places in Kenya. This comes about 100 days since a ban on religious meetings was first issued as a containment measure against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that reopening of places of worship is coming at a time the infections curve is on a steady upward trajectory, with no signs of flattening.
As a follow-up to the presidential directive, the Interfaith Council formed to come up with procedures for reopening places of worship announced that churches can now put in place requisite measures and resume in-person Worship Services, from 14th July 2020. How prepared are churches to meet the recommended health guidelines? (Refer to Qn. 14 of the recent polls by ShahidiHub Research & Consulting).
For now, here is a checklist of basic measures that church leaders should put in before they reopen their worship areas:
Where to Begin:
- Constitute a COVID-19 response team (Health committee), that will monitor/oversee the adherence to the health procedures.
- Train your Ushers/Volunteer teams on these health measures and recommendations.
- The physical distance of 1.5metres is observed throughout the Worship Service (You may want to encourage families to sit together). A visible label on seating arrangements.
- Social distance during singing.
- The maximum number of congregants does not exceed 100.
- Children under 13 years of age, and persons above 58 years of age are not allowed to attend the in person-worship services (For now, use other strategies to reach out to them).
- The duration for every worship service must not exceed 1 hour. (You may want to enlist lay leaders to help in various church ministries including preaching in the multiple worship services).
- All congregants to properly wear masks throughout the worship service.
- Have a local Covid-19 hotline number, to report any case of emergency.
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- Thermo-guns for body temperature checks (those with 38 degree Celsius are not to be allowed in).
- Protective gears (PPE’s) for those checking temperatures at entry points.
- Provide alcohol-based sanitizers/ disinfectant at the entry points.
- Increased handwashing stations, with soap and running water.
- Regular cleaning and disinfection (or fumigation) of the church building and hallways
- Invest in additional microphones- or ensure that all shared microphones are sanitized before being handed over to another person.
- Face masks to donate (to some members who may not afford…)
- How Offering is collected- think of other options like Mpesa
- Rethink how Baptism/ Holy Communion are done (disinfect hands…)
- Introduce more worship services (but first find out if members will be comfortable with the suggested schedules)
Things to Discourage/Avoid
- Handshaking. Giving high five… or customary ‘greet your neighbor…’
- Socialization in church premises after a worship service.
Now that churches have been given the green light to self-regulate and resume in-person gathering from 19th July, church leaders should approach this matter with seriousness and with a sense of accountability. The church a life-giving community, hence leaders should strictly adhere to these measures for the church to continue to be a source of life, faith, love, and grace to God’s people.