CCZ suggests suspending Holy Communion due to coronavirus

THE Council of Churches in Zambia has suggested to members to consider suspending Holy Communion during this period until the Coronavirus disease is completely eradicated.

CCZ general secretary Reverend Canon Emmanuel Chikoya in a Pastoral Letter on the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) expressed alarm over the directive that allows bars and other places to operate longer hours while the Church has been restricted to a maximum of one hour.

He urged the government to reconsider its position because it creates unnecessary speculations and agitation.

Fr Chikoya said such pronouncements tend to make the church’s work of convincing member churches to comply with government directives extremely difficult.

“We call upon government officials to be very consistent and clear in their pronouncements. In a Christian nation, one would expect the Church to be regarded as a critical stakeholder, which must be treated better than the bars and other places of leisure. It must be noted that the Church also contributes directly and indirectly to national development,” he said.

He pledged total commitment to supporting the government in combating coronavirus.
Fr Chikoya said CCZ called on member churches to work and comply with the government in the fight against the disease.

“As a Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we understand the effects of this outbreak on the people of Zambia and the world at large. We are in a scenario like that found in the book of Matthew 8:23 where the storms hit the boat on which the disciples were while Jesus Christ was asleep on the same boat,” he said.

“The storms were very strong and almost overpowered the boat. But the disciples knew Who was with them in the boat and they cried out to Him; and He woke up and rebuked the storms. We wish to encourage everyone that we will be secure because there is hope in the Lord; we will take our rest in safety, (Job 11:18).”

Fr Chikoya said the government working together with the Church and other concerted stakeholders must ensure that there was a restriction on unnecessary travel outside the country for all citizens.

He said this was in addition to the closure of all schools in the country.

“The government must further consider closing all our borders to non-citizens and allow only a few exceptions to cross into Zambia. We would also like to bring it to the attention of the government that not all citizens can afford to buy for themselves hand sanitisers and soap for them to wash their hands as a preventive measure. In fact, some homes do not have access to clean and sanitation services which will make them more vulnerable to the Coronavirus,” he said.

“We, therefore, appeal to the government to come up with a mechanism that addresses these challenges. We further call on the government to ensure that there is proper stewardship and accountability of all donations and allocated funds for this programme, as well as cost-effective utilisation of the same.”

Fr Chikoya also advised that pastoral and chaplaincy services must be deliberately integrated into the interventions and responses to COVID-19.

He said people who were affected and at risk required not only medical care but also pastoral care, hence the request.

He assured our health workers in all health institutions across the country that their prayers are with them.

“During this period, you will be required to be on high alert and subsequently will be expected to work beyond your normal working hours. Our prayer is that God will give you the strength you need and protect you from contracting the virus in your endeavour to serve lives. We encourage you to trust in the Lord and He will give you strength like that of an eagle,” he said.

“We also pray that you will be supplied with all the needed resources and equipment to protect you and facilitate your work.”

Fr Chikoya guided all political leaders, both in the ruling and opposition political parties to avoid making political mileage out of prevailing challenges and for once come together and issue joint messages of solidarity for the good of Zambia.

“When we unite victory is assured. As the Church we are, and will continue to pray for God’s intervention. We, therefore, plead with you that while we do our part, do your part as well by uniting as one force determined to overcome this challenge before all of us. We are all affected hence the need to work together as one team,” he said.

He called on all traders of different merchandise, especially those in the business of supplying products such as hand sanitisers and soap products not to overprice their merchandise in order not to overburden the already burdened citizenry due to the hard-economic challenges they were going through.

He called on media houses and journalists to carefully exercise their role of educating the masses about the Coronavirus disease by publishing official information.
“To our member churches and the Church at large, we need to practice holistic ministry by not only preaching and praying but join the government and all stakeholders in offering practical and supplementary support in our localities during and beyond this challenging time. The Church of Jesus Christ must not only focus on preaching the gospel and neglect other areas of humanity. The Church must believe in holistic ministry, ensuring that all aspects of a human being are taken care of, that is, spiritual, physical and emotional. In this case, let’s pray and work on ensuring that we protect and preserve human life. Let’s make the health aspect of Church members a top priority,” he said.

“In the face of coronavirus therefore, we call upon the Church to ensure that all instructions and guidelines by the Government are adhered to and announced in all the congregations. The Church commands a huge following, and will significantly contribute to preventing the spread of COVID-19 by sharing very factual and accurate information with courtesy of the Ministry of Health. The Church is one stakeholder government counts on in the fight against this disease. While we do all we can to protect and preserve human life, let us make it a priority to pray for one another, government, political and Church leaders and the nation as a whole for God’s intervention. Let’s us also pray for health workers in various health institutions.”

Fr Chikoya called on clergymen and women across the country to understand the times people were in and act accordingly.

“This is a time when Science and the Word of God must work together to effectively save the people of God from this calamity. To our member churches, and indeed other churches that would agree with us, we recommend and instruct the following: Beginning with Sunday 22nd March 2020, let us pray from an informed and proactive perspective for control and eradication of this pandemic. Encourage people to go for medical attention and avoid contact while we are praying for them. Let us not tell our members to exclusively depend on prayer only. Let them get both prayer and medical attention from health facilities. The roles of the Church and medical facilities are complementary and not competitive,” he said.
“We encourage our member churches to consider suspending Holy Communion during this period until the Coronavirus disease is completely eradicated. Avoid handshakes and physical contact at all costs, including laying of hands on people while praying for them and exchanging greetings during peace. Overnights must be discontinued with immediate effect until this pandemic is contained.”

Fr Chikoya said all Church gatherings should be shortened to not more than one hour in line with government directive.

“Ensure there is special care for the elderly and the sick in all our member churches during this period. All member Churches of the Council of Churches in Zambia that run health facilities must make them available in collaboration with the Government until the disease is completely eradicated. Ensure the highest levels of hygiene by sanitising Church premises as well as providing hand washing facilities at strategic and visible locations,” he said.

“This is a wake up call for the Church to seriously consider investing in IT and technologies that could be used during moments like this. In the meantime, we urge the Church to fully utilise existing social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and saturate the country with messages of Hope. Creative infographics are a must as we weather the storm of COVID-19.”

Fr Chikoya urged people not to panic or be moved by increasing number of the Coronavirus disease cases.

“Trust in God for He is with us. Instead of panicking, make every effort to follow strict personal hygiene so you prevent the transmission of the disease. Adhere and follow all instructions and guidelines being shared by the Government and other authentic stakeholders and pray for God’s intervention,” he said.

” Let’s be each other’s keeper by loving one another in the same manner we would love ourselves. Let’s do unto others as we would love them to do unto us. This means we must take care in the manner we interact with others in public places and even in our homes in order to ensure we are all safe from contracting the virus. Kindly take note of the following emergency lines for quick contact in the event you suspect you or another person has COVID-19: 0953898941; 0964638726; 0974493553.”/SM

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