Several Christians across the country today thronged churches for Sunday prayers despite President Museveni’s clarification that places of worship would be reopened starting October 15, 2020 after six months of closure as government moves to relax the virus-induced lockdown.
Mr Museveni on September 20 said places of worship would be reopened with only 70 congregants observing all the other SOPs, individual prayers/confessions, no night prayers, no Kids' Sunday school, among others.
Some places of worship reopened today with more than 70 congregants.
At St Andrews Cathedral in Mbale City, there were more than 100 congregants who attended today’s service.
At St Kalori Lwanga, Mbiko Parish in Njeru Municipality, Buikwe District, worshippers were seen wearing facemasks and washing their hands before entering the church.
Like other places of worship we visited, congregants were tested for temperature before accessing the venue.
Fr Joe King, the priest at St Kalori Lwanga said they had tried to observe all other SOPs but could not handle the overwhelming number of congregants who turned up for prayers.
“We are dealing with a big number of Christians and the restrictions say we should not have more than 70 people. I think we have tried to follow the SOPs but the biggest challenge was to maintain the number because everyone leaves their home thinking is one of the 70 and there is no way you can chase them,” he said.
According to him, the scientist advising president Museveni should review some of the SOPs, especially the number of congregants.
“Do not just sit in the office and make rules, they should go on the ground and find out. If you go to all Churches, you will notice that they have more than 70 people. It is not practicable,” he added.
Due to the overwhelming number of congregants, the priest said they had erected a tent outside the church to accommodate other congregants.
At St Jude Catholic Church Malaba, the overwhelming number of congregants forced the priest to shift the service outside making it free to all. However, he pledged to observe all SOPs in the subsequent Sunday services.
The priest revealed that the parish has recommended the church to hold three shifts of services every Sunday.
In Bushenyi, the Bishop of West Ankole Diocese, Rt Rev Johnson Twinomujuni, warned his clergy to avoid being driven by excitement following the opening of churches.
“Yes, the president has allowed reopening of Churches and we all want to gather and pray, but as leaders, let us not be driven by emotions. West Ankole Diocese is known for its orderliness and discipline and we want to maintain that good image,” he said.
The Bishop asked the clergy to strictly observe the guidelines set by the government to protect Christians. He advised that churchwardens be trained on basic prevention measures so that they can ably guide Christians during worship services.
“This is serious! You can decide to care less about what we are telling you, this disease could take your life. Follow SOPs and especially practice social distancing. Above all, use reasoning, which is an attribute of the Anglican Church,” he said.
In Ntungamo, the Bishop of South Ankole Diocese, Rt Rev Nathan Ahimbisibwe asked Christians to comply with the Ministry Of Health guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus disease.
“Do not be stubborn, don’t become complacent, let’s ensure that procedures are followed. Some people will relax and be disasters to others, we need not compromise anyone,” the Bishop said while leading the service at St Mathew Cathedral Kyamate Ntungamo today.
Reported by: Zadock Amanyisa, Michael Woniala, Derick Kissa, Joseph Omollo and Perez Rumanzi