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Churches ask faithful to book before attending service on Sunday

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Faithful willing to attend mass and services in the Catholic and Anglican churches will have to book and register with the Church administrators as one the measures to control numbers as churches reopen their doors.

The development comes after President Yoweri Museveni eased restrictions on places of worship that have spent over six months under lockdown but only allowing them to operate with 70 people. This will help limit personal contact between parishioners and keep coronavirus disease at bay.

All Saints Cathedral Kampala has developed a google document that is sent to the parishioners to choose the services they would wish to attend. The church’s communication officer, Ivan Naijuka says that after filling the preferred time, the church administrators will then send messages to individuals indicating when they should attend church.

However, Naijuka adds that they will soon come up with a mode that guides how they will allocate time to faithfuls who might not be able to fill the online forms.

Naijuka notes that the church has a congregation of over 5,000 faithfuls. To ensure that everybody attends, they will be in the main sanctuary and the three separate tents erected outside the church building each accommodating 70 people at the recommended social distance.

The church administration is also going to increase the number of services held on a given Sunday from the usual three to five with each lasting one hour. Under the new arrangement, the first service will run at 8:00 am while the last one will start at 4 pm.

Services at St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe have also been increased to six from the usual three that the Church used to hold before the COVID-19 pandemic. The prayer time has also been reduced to only one hour from the initial two hours.

Besides the Sunday services, Rev. Samuel Muwonge, the Head of Missions and Evangelism in Namirembe Diocese said that the Cathedral has also organized morning and mid-week services to serve various people. According to Rev. Muwonge, the Namirembe Cathedral clergy resolved that Christians will be admitted into services on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“The number 70 includes all, that’s why they advised each service to have five choir members and two or three members of clergy then others will be Christians. The Cathedral administration is also working on screens and we are sure by October 4, all will be well,” he said.

Rev. Muwonge also noted that Christians can also book seats before leaving their homes by calling the Cathedral Dean, Vicar, or any priest who will register them and issue them with a number. Muwonge says that Christians will be free to choose a service of their choice and that as time goes by, the Cathedral is planning to develop an online booking system.

Namirembe Cathedral has a capacity of 2,000 people and going by the directed 70 people in each service by government, the worship place will need to hold 29 services on a Sunday. Rev. Muwonge said that the cathedral is discussing the possibility of using other spaces in its precincts to hold several services consecutively.

Kampala Archdiocese is also planning to use a register and a first come first serve approach. Rev Fr Joseph Nkeera, the Kampala Archdiocesan communication secretary says each parish or sub parish council will decide on how they will register and host faithfuls.

At Rubaga cathedral, Rev Fr Nkeera says they have opted to have numerous masses running at the same time in different areas around the cathedral each hosting the recommended 70 people. He says that if there are seven priests, that translates into seven masses.

Besides, they will also increase the number of services to at least eight every Sunday. This means on each Sunday at least 3,920 faithfuls will attend mass at Rubaga parish. However, this is on a first come first serve basis.

Rev Fr Nkeera further notes other parishes might also co-opt the model. He also advises faithfuls that each should go to his respective parish for proper planning.

Meanwhile, the Kampala Archbishop Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga notes that Catholic Bishops also look forward to issuing other pastoral liturgical guidelines after their next meeting which will take place on September 29 to enable clergy and faithfuls to remain healthy while worshiping God in spirit and truth.

Although religious buildings had closed and several congregational rituals and activities cancelled, there has been continued engagement with the faithfuls through television, radio, and other remote collaborative tools.

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