On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster as a result of the novel coronavirus and imposed some safety measures that all citizens should follow. One such measure is the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
This affects schools, workspaces, universities, public transport and churches.
In light of this, we spoke to seven local major churches to find out how they plan to protect their congregations without disrupting regular programmes.
Alleluia International Ministries – not cancelling services
Pastor Mboro says in 2019 he prophesied that this would happen. Even though church programming will continue as usual, he has urged members of his church to practise good hygiene.
"God showed me that this outbreak will happen this year, so it didn't take me by surprise; we've been preparing and praying. More than anything, this is a call to depend on God. Because God is still God. He still sits on His throne. What we need to do is take better care of ourselves and listen to what we're being told," he says.
"My grandmother used to say 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' and she was right. We need to wash our hands and keep clean. Let's also eat healthier and drink lots of lemon water. All of this needs to be done without forgetting to pray and keep our faith in God."
"Eating healthier and drinking lemon water" has not been listed as a preventative measure against contracting the virus. According to Health24, the best way to prevent it is to practise proper hygiene. That means going back to basics and regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap, or an alcohol sanitiser. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Also refrain from touching your face and eyes with unwashed hands.
In his address, President Cyril Ramaphosa also mentioned social distancing as preventative measure.
Hillsong Church South Africa – Meetings cancelled
Hillsong has decided to cancel all Sunday gatherings and has opted for online congregational meetings instead.
"The leadership of Hillsong Church South Africa has decided to temporarily suspend Sunday church gatherings, starting from Sunday, 22 March 2020, in order to limit physical contact and prevent the transmission of Covid-19. This decision follows the recent national address by President Cyril Ramaphosa and advisories issued by the authorities (the National Security Council by recommendation of the National Emergency Response Committee).
"The physical health and well-being of our congregation is our highest priority. At the same time, it is vital to stay connected and to keep building the church community to ensure that our church family can remain planted in God's house during this health crisis and still have a great church experience. We will be livestreaming our Sunday services," the church wrote in a statement to members.
Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church – meetings cancelled
The SDA Church has urged all local churches to meet in smaller groups of less than 100.
"No gatherings of churches with an attendance of more than 100 people are allowed. If the relevant churches want to continue worshiping on Sabbath it is recommended that these churches make use of cell groups or other alternative measures to achieve this goal.
"For example, provide two or three time slots for services (morning, noon and afternoon) and divide the church membership into groups and designate a worship time slot to each group. Please remember that after each service, care should be taken to properly sanitise the church venue."
Enlightened Christian Gathering Church – meetings cancelled
Prophet Shepherd Bushiri also cancelled all physical gatherings but comforted his members by promising them virtual ministering.
"As the world continues to monitor the Covid-19 pandemic, your safety is my top priority. With that said, it is out of our great love for you that I announce that, ALL services in all our South African churches, shall be postponed until further notice, effective immediately. This includes diplomatic, midweek, homecell and Sunday services. All programmes tabulated on our timetable, therefore, have also been cancelled indefinitely.
"In that same line of communication, please take note that I will continue to minister to you all, via our online media platforms as well as the Prophetic Channel."
RHEMA Bible Church – meetings cancelled
The Rhema Bible Church is one of the biggest churches in the country.
Former Kwaito star, Pastor Kabelo Mabalane, said: "As a church we have to adhere to the laws of the land so in light of the president's announcement yesterday, we have cancelled our Sunday services until further notice. We sent out alerts to all our congregants and are still coming up with solutions. Currently, we will be streaming our services so all congregants can still be part of a service."
Both the Christian Revival Church and the Wesley Methodist Church said that in light of developments, their members' health and safety were top priorities. Their boards were still deliberating the best action. Once a decision is made, members will be alerted on social media.