Gardening and Zoom: How the clergy navigated lockdown

Sunday September 27 2020
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A man prays at St Stephen’s Church, Kisugu during the lockdown. PHOTOS/RACHEL MABALA/ CHRISTINE KATENDE

By Christine Katende

Lockdown came, and all of a sudden  everyone has had a new role to take on. The way it hit the different departments of our society is hard. Some  parents  suddenly  became teachers as some of the children looked for replacement  of their school friends.  That was not just it.
Reality even struck harder at the business points such as shops, and  worse still,  the places of worship. One wonders, how the religious leaders  made it through the trying time. We caught up with some of the clergy to tell us about  how they took care of themselves and their flock to make it  through. 

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Rev Diana Nkesiga, former Vicar All Saint’s Church

Rev Diana Nkesiga, former Vicar All Saint’s Church
Being a relatively small congregation with two clergy, we have worshipped and had fellowships online and via phones. We have supported the bereaved, the sick and the foreign students who were locked down in Kabanyolo. Marrieds fellowship have continued on Zoom while we had to teach the children’s church through Facebook; both had recorded and written sermons which we also  sent via WhatsApp.  The other activities we had were scientific weddings, baptisms and funerals. We have worked from home or half day at Makerere University, MUK Zoom, with meetings, platforms for various needs have been formed. But we miss Holy Communion and physical fellowship. 

Unfortunately, my congregation’s worship space at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) is being used as quarantine area. So this makes it more risky for my congregation because they are young and not ready to come without their children.  For now,  we remain a Zoom congregation.

Moses Ochika, senior pastor, Word Fountain Ministries
It has been a busy but challenging period, preaching on screen and scientific weddings were the order of the day.  So church was running even during the hard time since the President had allowed weddings to happen. We reached out to a broader audience through Facebook livestream, WhatsApp, teleconference and home to home visits. 


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Moses Ochika, senior pastor, Word Fountain Ministries

Today, all is set with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) as advised by the Ministry of Health. Before, the church accommodated 80 people but now we shall have two services where each will be attended by 40 people. 

Ahmad Kyeyune, Imam-elect, Najjanankumbi mosque
We do not rely on mosques. We have individual incomes. I am a radio presenter at Pearl FM, a professional Muslim counsellor and this is what I have focused on during the lockdown. During the pandemic, there were no congregational prayers, especially morning prayers which are vital in someone’s life, these prayers set the pace for the day. Islamic lectures were also cut off.

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Ahmad Kyeyune, Imam-elect, Najjanankumbi mosque

We thank Allah for enabling us to return to our places of worship. Before we opened on Friday, we had bought two temperature guns, one for the side of the women and the other for the males. We stocked sanitiser and no one was allowed in without a mask. People observed social distancing and that is how the arrangement will be in  the meantime, the mosque can only take 70 people. We are eager to attend all congregational prayers, as well as Islamic lectures.

Rev  Fr  Ronnie  Mubiru, Parish Priest, Wakiso Catholic Parish
God has seen us through this long period, we have been praying, as well as encouraging Christians to follow the guidelines put in place such as sanitising, hand washing and wearing facemasks. We have also been running different agricultural projects in order to be self-reliant, not a burden to Christians. Yes, we also helped the needy with basic needs, especially food items, and also visited the sick.  
We welcome and shall follow the standard operating procedures; Christians must observe social distancing since we have a smaller congregation inside church. We have stocked sanitisers despite the fact that they do not come cheap, and no one will be allowed to enter church without a facemask. 

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Rev Fr Ronnie Mubiru, Parish Priest, Wakiso Catholic Parish

Tents have also been secured and these are going to be put outside along with a public address system to enable those who would miss entering church to listen to the homily. We will continue to encourage Christians to exercise the ministry of Health guidelines in the new normal because Covid-19 is real.

Samuel Musoke, senior pastor  Big God Church, Bunga 
As Christian warriors, we learned to endure hardship in all situations, on the other hand, I got to spend enough time with my family and run my personal businesses. I am very thankful to God for such moments. We have done charity as well, since many people lost their jobs.  

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Samuel Musoke, senior pastor Big God Church, Bunga

We secured temperature guns, sanitiser for all our entrances and everyone has to enter church with a facemask. We have to sanitise all the chairs before and after any service plus we shall emphasise hand washing and we have to observe social distancing. 

Pastor  Shelton Kibuuka, Mukono Love Church  
After realising that the churches were not going to be opened soon, I embarked on acquiring new skills such as backyard gardening. We have been doing online worship. 

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Pastor Shelton Kibuuka, Mukono Love Church

With the opening, we have bought temperature guns, the sitting arrangement has automatically changed, including sanitising everything in the church. We shall follow all SOPs and we will also continue doing home cells / home fellowships. Mukono Love Church is about loving Jesus and loving people. So, we hope to use this season to share the little, especially with the needy communities in Mukono.

One’s take

Televangelists kept me very sane
I am a prayerful person and a believer in the potency of heartfelt prayers. If there had ever been any time I needed agreement and encouragement in my spiritual life, this was it. Ironically, this was the first time in my lifetime that our places of worship were closed. I craved to be inside a church like never  before. At first, I kept up with my church activities on social media but I soon realised I was only getting swept into a hysteria of the comments. I cut that avenue off. I turned to televangelists and thus began my love relationship with them. To catch my favourite preachers, I would be ready by 5am and stay put until 10am Monday to Friday. A week into this routine, I knew I had made the right choice. I studied the bible with Pastor Creflo A.

 Dollar, got inspiration from Pastor Steven Furtick, for motivation, I had Bishop T.D Jakes and for the kind of hope that melted away my anxiety, I had the soothing words and voice of Pastor Joel Osteen. I tried to make Sundays extra special by going to my roots with vernacular worship songs thanks to YouTube, before switching back to TV for service. In keeping with my practice, Wednesday was reserved for meditation. Sometimes I was joined by a friend and other times I did it on my own. This helped me stay sane and renewed my faith in God’s ineffable plan.
Additional reporting by Carolyne B Atangaza