Believers turned back as churches open doors again
The first day of reopening of places of worship saw scores of Christians flock church services across Kigali, prompting some faith-based leaders to turn some of the worshippers back.
Churches across the country reopened on Sunday, July 19, for the first time since the government announced their closure in March in order to deal with the outbreak of the Covid-19.
Although many churches had more than one service, a number of believers ended up missing out on the Sunday sermons as church leaders moved to implement social distancing measures.
At the Catholic-based Parish of Regina Pacis in Remera, one of the places of worship that The New Times visited, many who had turned up for the Sunday mass returned home without attending any of the two services that took place before noon.
The church organised a third mass in the evening.
For some churches such as the Evangelical Restoration Church, pastors said that they limited the number of worshipers to less than a quarter of the church’s capacity.
“Our church has the capacity to receive 1,500 people per service, but in two services we have catered for less than 300 people,” Lydia Masasu, a senior pastor at Evangelical Restoration Church Masoro. “This means that we have more than 1000 members of our parish here who were not able to attend the services due to social distancing measures.”
Reverend Maurice Rukimbira, the pastor of the Anglican Church of Rwanda Kibagabaga Parish, hailed the government for its decision to reopen the churches but stressed that the fact that the number of worshippers regulated limits the spread of the gospel.
“Of course the first thing is to thank God that even this option has been authorized. However, the purpose of the gospel is to be spread to the whole world as the messiah instructed us to go around the world, preach the gospel and baptize whoever believes in him,” he said.
Most of the church attendants on Sunday were regular members, he explained.
“But we need visitors because in them we find the lost sheep we were sent to find.”
According to the clerics, at the moment it’s not possible to accommodate all believers in churches.
The prevailing hot weather, they said, has also made it impossible to organise afternoon services.
Among other challenges spotted, most of the singers in church choirs were facing difficulties to sing with masks on.
“Imagine putting on masks while singing! The voice is very low, temperature is high” echoed Marcellin Kamanzi, a pastor at Evangelical Restoration Church.
Despite the challenges, Jonas Mporana, the Head of Rwanda Interchurch Committee in the Northern Province, says the reopening of places of worship demonstrates that the government understands the needs of its citizens.
All the churches that The New Times visited observed the conditions that the government has put in place for them to operate.