On Sunday night our president, Cyril Ramaphosa, provided firm leadership as a response to the challenges of a growing COVID-19 infection rate in South Africa. As noted in his speech this worldwide pandemic has consequences for public health, public functioning and public resources.
As part of the broader church community and specifically the Baptist Union of South Africa, the prohibition of gathering of 100 or more people has a direct bearing on the viability of Sunday gatherings and other planned midweek gatherings. Of note, Easter celebrations will commence soon and many might have to suspend planned gatherings over this very special time. Please note that this recommendation has been made in many of the affected regions in the world and has at its heart the well being of its citizens and inhabitants. The following broad recommendations and considerations are offered as an ecclesiastical response.
We adore worshiping the One True God congregationally but we are aware that South Africa has challenging health, social and economic realities. These realities are reflected in our churches as well. South Africa has many infected with HIV and tuberculosis. Added to that the economic realities of the majority in our country may make social distancing impossible. Dr Stuart Carolisen theorizes that South Africa and Africa in general may be hardest hit considering these factors. We recommend that churches adhere to the infection control suggested regimen and self isolation protocols government has instituted. As a ministry to those who are more at risk, may compassion drive our decision making as local congregations.
We are called as a Christian community to draw near. Social distancing (better called solidarity distancing) might appear to be a paradox. We ask that you abide by this guideline to aid the interest of the community. In times gone by during infectious pandemics the church has done its best to minister to the best interest of society by being wise and disciplined. The church has also simultaneously known to put fear aside and fulfill its mandate to care for the sick and effected. May you know the difference and rise to the occasion as required.
Some churches may have to close Sunday services periodically. We call you back to Baptist ecclesiology as to who and what the church is. The CHURCH is the whole company of those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As a local manifestation of the CHURCH, Baptist churches, considering the above, will find new and creative ways for public and congregational worship.
Every cloud has a silver lining, may the silver lining for the COVID-19 crisis in South Africa be the able response of BUSA churches everywhere. To God be the glory, great things he has done!