NORTHERN Zambia Union Conference of the SDA Church president Dr Tommy Namitondo says COVID-19 has affected the church negatively and has resulted in a decrease in the number of people attending services.

In an interview, Dr Namitondo also disclosed that during the pandemic, the church lost three senior pastors.

“The restriction in movement and restriction in the number of people physically attending church has affected the member fellowship. The impact is quite huge on the church, you know church depends on members, church growth is dependent on how many members meet and interact with one another. When people are fellowshipping, that’s when they are encouraged to evangelise to others the gospel. The church lost a lot of members, when the pandemic started, it was difficult for members to adhere to the rules provided by health authorities, in the process, many lives were lost, a lot of them died including three of our senior pastors,” he said.

Dr Namitondo said it was difficult for some members of the church to believe that the virus was real.

“When it started, it was difficult for people to believe, they were linking it to conspiracy theories. Others interpreted it to be the mark of the beast, you know how SDAs like such controversies, but as leaders, we managed to convince them that the virus is real and has claimed a lot of lives, hence the need to protect themselves. Because pastors talk to many people, members were not free to be visited. We meet many people, when we want to visit, they give excuses because they fear we might take the virus to them,” Dr Namitondo said.

He said although COVID- 19 had brought about new models of interactions such as online worship, live streaming and e-banking, the church recorded a reduction in tithes and offerings.

“The usual thing that people know is that tithe and offering is retained at church, what members know is that they need to take [it] at church when fellowshipping. They don’t know that money can be transferred through e-banking or mobile money services. Yes, the coming of the virus has come with its technology, we are now able to work online and so on,” said Dr Namitondo.