Sunday, July 19 marked the first Sunday for places of worship to reopen since a cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame last Wednesday, gave a go ahead to churches to reopen upon approval by local authorities after verifying that they have safety measures against New Coronavirus in place.
Some places of worship postponed their reopening to the Sunday of July 26 but across the country, places of worship went off to a slow and cautious start as believers flocked churches for the first time in five months.
Social distancing was the order of the day and there were no handshakes or hugs, which are the known modes of greeting among the faithful. Mass celebrants and the clergy wore masks and there was no holy communion.
KT reporters in different parts of the country reported that many churches did not fulfil requirements of reopening immediately, in Nyagatare district, only 13 out of 326 churches making the list of places of worship which were given a greenlight to reopen.
In Muhanga district, Saint André Cathedral, in Kabgayi Diocese, which normally sits over 2, 000 people could only accommodate 300 people after social distancing measures were put in place while in Burera district, only one church met the requirements to reopen.
In Musanze district, Ruhengeri Roman Catholic Church Cathedral was flocked by cautious believers who complied to measures against COVID-19.
For many, it was a day of joy, after more than 125 of not being able to attend their weekly prayers after places of worship were closed on March 15 as the country imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak of the pandemic.
Though other essential services were reopened beginning with May through June, places of worship had to wait a little longer while bars and other places where many people converge remain closed.
“I am happy that eventually we can go back to church and pray together. I am really impressed by the organisation and discipline people exhibited,” said Marie Claire Uwantege, a devout Roman Catholic who attended mass at St Famille Cathedral, in Nyarungenge district.
Majority of the places of worship were preparing to reopen in advance ahead of the July 15 cabinet decision. In some parts of the city, some places of worship have turned the open spaces outside into part of the prayer temple, installing loudspeakers through which the message is transmitted to the faithful outside.
In some churches such as St Michel Parish Cathedral, digital tools have been put in place to register members of the congregation in order to keep a record of those who attend the mass. The church uses an application to capture the records of congregation members.
Father Innocent Consolateur, the head of the Parish said that the registration system which is easy to use will make it easy for the church to keep a record of all attendees as the government is requiring all public places to do so as one of the measures to fight COVID-19.
“We are happy that members of the congregation have responded positively to this requirement which makes it easy for us to give a report to authorities in case they need information from us,” the Clergyman said.
the application is used by everyone they enter their profile so that they reach the door of the place of worship no longer register but show their phone, and the code is given and verified before entering.
Due to social distancing requirements, some churches such as Zion Celebration Centre, commonly known as ‘Kwa Gitwaza’, have introduced an online application process where people who want to attend church services register online.
People will be allowed to attend on first come, first serve basis. The Gatenga-based church which was seating over 2000 people will not be hosting more than 700 people for a service.
As part of the measures to avert the spread of COVID-19, the reopened churches were only accepting digital tithe or offertory as well as money transfers.
Majority of the places remained closed as they implement safety measures against the New Coronavirus while majority of the mosques, including the Nyamirambo-based ‘Qadhafi’ mosque did not reopen as they continued to put in place the required precautionary measures.
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