Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | This year, millions of faithfuls will not usher in 2021 in Churches as is the norm due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
For the first time in over 20 years, Pentecostal churches will not hold prayers that usher faithfuls into the new due to COVID-019 restrictions that ban congregations of more than 200 people and a national curfew that stops people from being out past 10:00 pm.
Typically, the churches hold prayers that last the entire day. They start as early as 8:00 am on December 31 and go past midnight into the new year. Faithfuls are encouraged to fast during this day as they repent and leave all forms of unrighteousness and problems they might have encountered in the previous year. At midnight as fireworks ushers in the new year in different parts of the country, they are encouraged to pray for what they want God to do for them. The venues of the prayers usually are open fields.
This year, all this will occur in people’s homes according to churches that URN spoke to. Celebrations of the New year’s eve on the 31st December, 2020 will be online experiences and virtual in most of the churches that usually celebrate this day around Kampala.
Watoto Church Central, located in Downtown Kampala will also hold its New Year’s Eve celebration online. Pastor Julius Rwotlonyo, the Associate Team Leader of Watoto Church, says they will pre-record the service during the day and broadcast it on their church website, Facebook page and Youtube Channel.
Pentecostal churches that own radio and television channels say they will usher in the new year with their congregations via online means as well.
Eng. Wilson Musanje, the chief mobiliser/publicity officer at the National Prayer day hosted by Christianity Focus Centre, says that they usually organise prayers at Old Kampala Secondary School. This time around, they will only use TV and Radio.
Musanje says they will also open up the Church for some people, but the number will be limited to 600 people. They will erect two tents with the capacity to hold 400 people while the other people will be seated in Church. He says they will make sure that all SOPs are followed to the dot.
Pastor Charles James Ssenkubuge, a leader at House of Prayer Ministries, who is also the Democratic Party Kampala Lord Mayor candidate, says they will use radio and Tv to broadcast live prayers. The prayers that will occur at House of Prayer Ministries Church located at Makerere Kikoni where live camera and TV crews will be stationed to broadcast the prayers.
Similarly, Miracle Center Cathedral will also be ushering into the new year 2021 by broadcasting it live on the Channel 44 TV and using social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The event will start at midday which will kick off the first service of the day, and it will end at 6:00 pm, the second service will be stating at 7:00 pm till 1:00 am of the new year 2021. The services will include worshipping and performances from different worship teams of the Church.
Other traditional churches like the Anglicans and Catholics will also use different social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube. They will also use Zoom to hold the prayers. However, some church administrators are not convinced that the prayers will be well attended.
Rev. Samuel Muwonge, the head of missions and evangelism at Namirembe Diocese says that they have organized to have on line prayers through the better part of the day.
“Many of the churches are organising online prayers that will occur during the day from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Later in the day, we shall continue prayers to usher in the new year starting at 8:00 pm into the new year. These prayers will be broadcast on our Facebook Namirembe FM and also on some TV stations that are yet to confirm,” he said.
At St Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, one mass has been organised to usher in the new year. The mass is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and end at 8:30 pm. Rev. Fr Joseph Nkeera says they want people to beat the curfew.
“We shall not be having long prayers as usual. This time by 8:30 pm, we want people to be heading home in a time to beat the curfew,” he said.
While online prayers have been embraced, some church administrators are skeptical about its functionality.
Ivan Naijuka, the head of communications at All Saints Cathedral says that due to high costs of data and unreliable internet connectivity, many people will likely miss out on the prayers.
Similarly, believers that URN spoke to say this year’s prayers are a new experience. They say that many many of them are likely to dose off.
Margaret Atim, a born again Christian who lives in Rubaga, says praying from home is hard. Atik doubts she will be able to sit on TV until midnight to usher in the new year.
“Normally sitting in the cold during 31st prayers keeps me awake. This year, I am not sure I will be sharp. The environment at home is not conducive for praying. There are many destructions,” she said.
However, Nelson Musinguzi is thankful that he will get a chance to usher in the new year.
“Normally I go to Namboole. This year that will not be possible but that is okay because I will get a chance to usher in the new year. This year has been a hard one, and many people have even died. So, even if I will not go to Namboole, I am happy I have the alternative of watching from home,” he said.