EVANGELICAL Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) acting executive director Bishop Andrew Mwenda says the closure of churches is not a solution to the fight against COVID-19 but there should be a strict adherence to reduced congregation time.

In an interview, Bishop Mwenda said rather than closure, meeting times at churches should be reduced to one hour from two hours as complete closure led some congregants to turning away from their faith.

“Last time when that happened, we actually didn’t know exactly how to manage the whole thing very well as we should have and we didn’t even have an experience of what we were exactly dealing with. However, as at now, most of the churches, I will use the word ‘most’ of the churches because not all of them have kind of learnt how to handle this by the issue of social distancing and also the issue of washing and basically keeping the regulation. And my proposal would be, instead, we are given two hours each one of us, as bars are given five hours, us we are given two hours, my proposal would be probably to adjust the timings instead of completely stopping fellowshipping and going virtual. The virtual part is okay, but it’s not easy because what has happened right now is some of the congregants do not have smartphones. It’s not true, some people think that everyone has a smartphone, no, they don’t have smartphones,” Bishop Mwenda said.

“So, as a result, we have had, if I will use a Christian word here, we have had a number of people who have literally ‘backslidden’ and I think that is not godly. We have literally ‘backslidden’ as a result of not going to church and doing nothing completely, just sitting at home because somehow the pastor said we shouldn’t congregate. So, my opinion would be, if I had my way, instead of congregating for two hours, you reduce or you have proper space, you reduce to one exactly, you are done.”

He added that it is not known when the virus will be dealt with, hence the need for 14-day quarantine measures to be implemented when positive cases were detected at a particular church.

“…Otherwise, we don’t know how long the virus is with us, and if we don’t know how long the virus is with us, then how long will you close the church? If you remember, it came in March (2020), we were assuming that by the end of April or so, we will have the virus out of our way but guess what? It has been a year, it’s almost going to run into a year since it came so it meant that the churches would have been closed for almost one year. If the economic aspect was impacted, what about the church? So, that’s why I am saying, yes, [they should close], in terms of carelessness and when there is too much at that particular church, I think for me they can close for the 14 days, quarantine. Quarantine the church for at least two weeks then get back for the services,” he urged.

Bishop Mwenda said it was unwise for churches to claim to be spiritual and relax prevention measures.

“I have cautioned them, a number of those that I know, I have actually approached some of the pastors and I have told them, you cannot continue that way, even though you have faith, it doesn’t mean your neighbour has faith and you don’t know where the other one is coming from. I have cautioned them, it’s unwise and it’s unspiritual. Being led by the spirit of God does not necessarily mean you do away with the sound mind, it must be balanced with the sound mind. So, for me, I have cautioned them, you cannot do that. If you remember, we did give guidelines during even the time of the crossover and I came under fire, I was insulted, and when I use ‘insulted,’ in a kind way; I was told I was being unspiritual, without faith, and not a true Christian and all kinds of things. But if you notice the spiking, it’s actually a result of the Festive Season; how careless people were, both as a church and as a nation, there was a lot of carelessness during the Festive Season, which has resulted to where we are today,” observed Mwenda.