Online churches: the new norm

Source: Online churches: the new norm | The Herald

Online churches: the new norm

Bulawayo Bureau

Some churches have said the cost of data is preventing less privileged members from accessing sermons.

The digital era has paved a lee-way for congregations to worship in the comfort of their homes at the same time protecting themselves from the novel virus.

Guta Ra Mwari Religion, Heartfelt International Ministries, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa are part of the indigenous churches which have resorted to social media to conduct online sermons triggering more than a thousand active participants on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Mr Moses Tshuma an Evangelist at Guta Ra Mwari Religion said the lockdown of churches does not mean worship is also on lockdown. Mr Tshuma advised other congregates not to sit and wait for the physical churches to open but engage in online sermons as they are a safer alternative to curb the novel virus.

“With the lockdown our congregates now receive the sermon in the comfort of their homes and families with less exposure to Covid-19,” said Mr Tshuma.

“We use Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp for pre- recorded audios. We have now advanced to a situation where a sermon delivered on Zoom is live streamed on YouTube which is much stable a virtual platform,” he said.

Tshuma says more than a thousand congregates participate on WhatsApp sermons while YouTube and Zoom get more than two hundred participants.

“The older generation prefers WhatsApp because it is easily accessible while the Youth prefer YouTube and Skype,” said Mr Tshuma.

“Online sermons are no different from the physical ones, once you familiarise yourself with them you will realize that it has become the new normal,” said Mr Tshuma.

Pastor Ephert Ndlovu of the Heartfelt International Ministries also proclaimed dedication to helping people overcome spiritual attacks online through prayer and deliverance. He said the deliverance is free all they ask is for people to testify.

“We are dedicated to helping people overcome spiritual attacks on social media since churches are closed, we do spiritual deliverance and healing and the number of testimonies we get is quite remarkable,” said Pastor Ndlovu.

Heartfelt International Ministries has more than 35 000 thousand followers on Facebook, and more than 600 congregates participate in online sermons.

“Some believers even go as far as calling requesting for healing, and they will be healed over the phone,” said Pastor Ndlovu.

However, Mrs Xolani Ncube from The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa expressed the need to physically fellowship as some church services like the Holy Communion (isidlo senkosi) cannot be administered online.

“Mingling as congregates is greatly missed especially for services like the Holy Communion that cannot be done online,” she said.

Mrs Ncube said the new normal was straining on the pocket.

“Online services are challenging as other people face financial constraints in terms of buying data to access the sermons. We are a big church of about 300 worshipers but only a range of twenty to twenty- five people take part in online sermons which means others are left out,” said Mrs Ncube.

“Despite these challenges’ online church services, are safer at a time like this, because if churches are opened social distancing will not be maintained and worshipers will be exposed to the virus. It is better to be safe than sorry,” said Mrs Ncube.