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Coronavirus – Updated guidelines from the Archbishop – As at Thursday April 2

Archbishop Thabo is posting News and Reflections for Holy Week on his blog at https://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/

Logo credit: CDC

UPDATE: APRIL 2, 14:00

Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

My update is late today because we were racing to put together a 30-minute Easter service, recorded by Newzroom Africa for DStv, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, in the shadow of Table Mountain. We’ll let you know when it will be broadcast.

Yesterday, I asked that we lament, and perhaps some of the cries of lamentation are around the loss of our usual rituals and practices leading up to Easter: our retreats at this time; confession; the washing of feet and stripping of the altar; the energy with which we are led through the seven last words; the moving Mass on Holy Saturday with the bare altar; the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.

I already miss these as I write to you and acknowledging the loss is also healing me. I am finding ways to recreate the feelings and the experience with family with the broadcasters who will record an excerpt from the Easter service. I am already humming the Easter songs as I allow them to heal me and help me deal with the loss. I have tithed what I would have given in the collection to a project that feeds the hungry, and I urge others to work at ways in which through others you also can find ways to supplement the feeding of the destitute.

A number of COVID-19 teams are being set up on a Provincial, regional and Diocesan basis. By regional, I mean the Gauteng Dioceses, the Western Cape Dioceses, the Eastern Cape Dioceses, the KwaZulu-Natal Dioceses and the following groupings: Kimberley & Kuruman, Free State, Lesotho and Matlosane; Mpumalanga, eSwatini and the Mozambican Dioceses; and Nambia, Angola and St Helena.

The teams have been asked to share information and experiences; to report if they have parishioners infected; and to keep us informed on what is happening in their regions. Our Provincial team, the COVID-19 ACSA advisory group, has been exceptional – with support from our legal teams also. The group has been engaged in vigorous daily consultation on everything from general advice and Government information to feeding schemes, food vouchers and the availability of hand sanitizer. Thank you to all of them for their efforts.

During this time of restrictions on the number of people who attend funerals, I want to record at the end of these updates the names of parishioners whose funerals have been held under restriction, in order that we may remember their families in our prayers.

Today we remember:

In the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist

  • Layminister Albertina Letsoalo (94), Parish of Tlhatlaganya
  • Mr Mongatane, Chapelry of St. Simon of Cyrene, Cyferskuil

In the Diocese of Cape Town

  • Katie Louw, the mother of Bishop-Elect Joshua Louw

God bless.

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As we go forward, updates will be reflected on this page, and dates and times of each update published.(If you are not sure an update has loaded, “break the cache” on your computer by pressing Ctrl/F5 to reload the page.)

UPDATE: APRIL 1, 06:40

Yesterday we asked men’s and women’s groups in the Church, as well as religious communities, to join us in praying during this time of the coronavirus. Mothers’ Union, can you please also devote your Thursday prayers to the crisis, over and above other times? We also asked the youth and servers, as well as other young people’s formations, to create prayer platforms. Perhaps our young people could add their voices to the calls for the cost of data to be reduced during this period of shutdown?

Multichoice (DStv) has approached the churches with their plan to launch a special Easter channel to bring Good Friday to Easter to God’s people across the continent. They will create a pop-up channel – Channel 344 – from Thursday April 9 to Monday April 13, accommodating denominations including ours. We will share more information when it is available.

The Bishopscourt staff, including the Provincial Executive Office and the Media Office, continue to enable my ministry during this time, for which I am thankful to God. The Media Office has added to and re-arranged our Resource page, and asks you to keep on sharing your Facebook pages and any tweets that you send out. Let’s use the hashtag #acsaworship on what we publish so fellow Anglicans at home can follow and share. You can find the Resource page here:

/coronavirus-resources-for-prayer-and-worship/

Please support the Government in the crucially important mass community tracing, screening, testing and treatment programmes, announced for South Africa by President Ramaphosa on Monday. If asked, please help the health authorities in whatever way you can. I am spending these days in a “semi-retreat” and come out only in the evenings to work on those updates. It is for me a period of intense prayer and lament.

In the past, Jeremiah has for me best described what it is to lament. ‘Cry aloud to the Lord!’ he writes in his Lamentations, ‘Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night … Arise, cry in the night, at the beginning of the watches. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!’ (Lam 2:18,19).

But lamenting does not only have negative connotations. Denise Ackermann has written that lamenting “…is a refusal to settle for the way things are. It is reminding God that the human situation is not as it should be and that God as the partner in the covenant must act.” In exploring lamentation, we trust that the incarnate, second person of the Trinity, God who took human form, is always with us as we discern his way in struggling with the contemporary issues of our day. We must thus act courageously, “recklessly confident” that nothing will separate us from God’s love.

Lamenting helps us build hope – as I wrote in my book Faith & Courage:

“I am not speaking of hope in the sense of an anaesthetic administered to dull the throbbing pain of the everyday reality of inequality and indifference to suffering. As… Denise Ackermann says, hope ‘is not that blithe sense that all will end well… because human progress is guaranteed’. No, hope is a determination, a conviction that seeks to name our problems and highlight our differences, precisely in order to mobilize people to overcome them. As Ackermann adds: ‘To live out my hope is to try to make that which I hope for come about – sooner rather than later.’ It is ‘never to surrender our power to imagine a better world’.”

These updates will become shorter and shorter as I spend more time in the next few days listening to God rather than talking and writing. I hear God saying daily to me, “Thabo, be still and know that I am Lord,” as I lift up mine eyes daily to God from whence my hope comes.

Do pray for those who have died COVID-19 related deaths in Southern Africa, and for those infected and under treatment.

God bless you, and keep safe.

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UPDATE: MARCH 31, 05:30

With Day Five of South Africa’s lockdown – and Day Two of Lesotho’s three-week lockdown – beginning today, Tuesday, our people and parishes are starting to look ahead to Holy Week and Easter.

But before I write about that, a reminder about following the South African Health Department’s basic guidelines, including those on staying at home, on social distancing when you shop for food or medical supplies, on hand-washing (for 20 seconds) or sanitizing, and sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then throwing it away. You can find comprehensive advice on the Department of Health’s special website>> Please read it and follow the advice and the compulsory regulations.

We managed to get a special ACSA Resources page up on the website at the weekend, with a range of advice, ideas, prayers, forms and examples of service etc. in text, audio, video and poster format. By Sunday, the Resources page was offering links to a number of services webcast live, and archived for later viewing, including services run on the principles of social distancing. You can find the Resources page here:

/coronavirus-resources-for-prayer-and-worship/

Please share your own ideas and practices with others, at anglicanmediasa@gmail.com . Our staff resources are stretched, so the quickest way of getting your ideas onto the page – and of readers seeing them – is if you send links to your own blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube or SoundCloud channels.

We’ll continue to update the Resources page with any new links to services we find for Palm Sunday. On Monday of Holy Week, the Bishops of the Province will connect using video-conferencing software to say the Angelus together, as well as to offer prayers for our countries, our continent and the world.

Through Holy Week, I appeal to the Anglican Women’s Fellowship, the Mothers’ Union, the Bernard Mizeki Men’s Guild and similar groups to don their uniforms, and for members of religious houses their habits, and to organise WhatsApp and other social media groups for prayer until Easter.

On Maundy Thursday, the clergy in the Diocese of Cape Town, instead of gathering to renew their vows, will also join a video-conference to say the Angelus and offer prayers for the Diocese, the city, South Africa, Africa and the world. I appeal to you, the clergy and people of our parishes, to link up via groups such as those on WhatsApp and elsewhere and do the same during Holy Week.

Led by the South African Council of Churches, the country’s religious leaders have reached an agreement with the SABC to step up their religious programming in the coming weeks. We Anglicans are on the schedule for a service on Easter Sunday – I’ll share more details with you when I know them. In your own parishes, perhaps you can consider opportunities for joint ecumenical and interfaith worship.

Let me end on a note on ministry, and then with an invitation.

As clergy and laity, we need to reflect on the meaning of ministry in “a time of coronavirus” and on what it means for the future, covering a number of scenarios. If the lockdown has to be extended, how do we plan for that? If that graph showing the exponential growth in the spread of the virus continues to shoot up, what preparations do we need to make? Could we help the Government by opening churches for testing or other purposes? If the curve flattens – and we pray that it will – how has this crisis enabled us to rethink our pastoral plans and our vision of ministry? What have we been missing, how has the world changed, and how do we respond?

Now the invitation: I challenge you all, clergy or lay people, to explore your own creativity as you pray, meditate and worship at home in the coming weeks. Is there a new Collect that you’ve had in the back of your mind for a while? Write it down and hone it for use in your parish. Or a song, or a hymn? Consider working on new contextual liturgies and prayers for this season and beyond. The key is: be imaginative! Be bold! Be original!

God bless

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UPDATE: MARCH 27, 06:25

Today, a prayer that you can use when you observe the Angelus at noon, and a blessing that you can use at the end of devotions at home. The video versions will appear first, followed by audio versions which, if you click on the links through to Soundcloud, can be downloaded to your phone or computer.

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UPDATE: MARCH 26, 15.10

A link to the audio version of the Archbishop’s eve-of-lockdown message, available to download to your phone or computer:

UPDATE: MARCH 26, 08:05

With effect from today, the eve of the coronavirus lockdown, we will be focussing in links on this Provincial website not only on publishing guidelines, but also sharing resources for worship, prayer and ministry in a time of the coronavirus, COVID-19 and the lockdown in South African dioceses of our Province.

First up, my eve-of-lockdown message, shared on our YouTube video page. Please share widely. Later today we shall add links to YouTube videos of an Angelus prayer for this time and a blessing that can be used to end worship. Also coming: audio links enabling you to download the prayers and use them on your mobile phone.

Archbishop Thabo addresses parishioners, clergy and bishops across the Province on South Africa’s lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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UPDATE: MARCH 25, 07:51

Those of us in South African Dioceses tend easily to forget our Dioceses in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and St Helena.

The enormity of the lock-down announced by President Ramaphosa should not blind us as South Africans to the different challenges around services and other ministry elsewhere in our Province. In many areas, the spirit has been one of “Let us move on and get into a congregational mindset, doing our own thing.” Sharing our collective responses is key to keeping together, and we can learn from and hold in our prayers those in the Province whose churches are still open.

Please pray for the Dioceses of Angola; Lesotho; Lebombo, Niassa and Nampula in Mozambique; and the Dioceses of Namibia; Swaziland; and St Helena. Also, please give generously to our Province-wide Lenten Appeal for Mozambican Dioceses still recovering from the cyclones which hit them last year.

Across our Province, I want to suggest today that since many people are not on computers or mobile phones able to reach the Internet, each parishioner or cleric should phone at least three vulnerable people a day as a continuation of your ministry.

Many of you are taking innovative and creative steps to continue ministering to your people. Please share them with us, so that we can perhaps create a page on our website devoted to best practices. Send them to: anglicanmediasa@gmail.com

One of the innovations has been to reach people through videos online, an example of which you can see here – it is produced by St. Laurence’s Church in Discovery, in the Diocese of Johannesburg, where the Revd Martha Gordon presented a short service. Of course not all parishes have resources to do that, so South Africa’s church leaders are exploring whether we could have more live services broadcast on television.

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury will be joining Pope Francis and many other Christians today, Wednesday, in saying the Lord’s Prayer at noon. Do join them, and also ring church bells and use the Angelus prayer I sent yesterday.

God bless the world,

Give it wisdom at this time,

Grant us relief and release,

Be with those who are ill,

And bless the carers fighting this pandemic,

For Jesus Christ’s sake,

Amen

You can also end your worship, at home or in services in countries where they can still be held, with the prayer that I shared with you last week:

Lord God, in this season of fear and uncertainty,

as we face the threat of the coronavirus,

Grant us the wisdom and determination to walk in one another’s shoes,

The confidence and the humility to draw closer to you and to those affected,

Empower us to pastor those who are ill, to weep for the dead, to support the healers and to care for and love one another.

And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always.

Amen

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UPDATE: MARCH 24, 06:00

The national “stay-at-home” lockdown that the Government will impose in South Africa from midnight on Thursday will test as never before our capacity as a church to innovate and share with one another.

But it will not prevent us from ministering to one another, and since our churches are now effectively closed, I have a simple request if at all possible:

At midday, every day, please could we ring our church bells around Southern Africa for 10 or 15 seconds as a signal to those, in every country in our Province, who are ill or live in fear, despair and perhaps anger, assuring them that God is here, that He loves us, that we are not alone and that this too shall pass.

It would also be a wonderful way of demonstrating our presence, our solidarity with our communities, and the fact that we are praying and worshipping at home.

If you are at home, pause whatever you are doing, and clink a glass or cup to ring the same message out to yourselves and your loved ones, resurrecting the use of the Angelus and saying this prayer:

God bless the world,

Give it wisdom at this time,

Grant us relief and release,

Be with those who are ill,

And bless the carers fighting this pandemic,

For Jesus Christ’s sake,

Amen

This time of great anxiety and stress in the world, where tomorrows are not certain for so many, is one when we need God’s presence more than ever. We need to acknowledge to ourselves that the fear and anxiety created by the novel coronavirus and by COVID-19 will have long-term effects on us.

We will never be able to know now what the psychological effects on us will be in the future – on how we view ourselves – and on society at large. That is why in my messaging I am asking people to take seriously their psychological and emotional well-being.

Develop a spirituality of caring for yourself and those around you. Regard what health officials are calling “self-isolation” as a form of retreat in which you can pursue a ministry of prayer. Meditation and prayer are also a way of feeding the people of God.

And please reach out to others, especially the vulnerable and those who live in parishes which are materially poorer than yours. It is not clear as I write what leeway the Government will allow clergy, lay ministers and devoted parishioners to minister outside their homes, but please reach out by phone, by WhatsApp groups and chats, by Skype or other means to a parish in your Diocese which may not have as many resources as yours, and see whether you can find a way of meeting their needs.

Bishops and clergy, please do say Mass with one or two others in your household, or even alone, for the people of God wherever you are and especially if your Rectory is on or next to your Church premises. If you can, find a way of transmitting this electronically for those who want to watch or listen at home.

I have asked the Bishops to form diocesan teams, and parishes their own teams, to consult with one another to develop and share ideas for ministry. These will be received by a Provincial team so that we can derive by shared effort best practice for the church instead of pulling back in fear. And there may be practical steps we can take for the health authorities in future, such as opening our churches as testing centres or simply to feed the homeless and the needy.

Keep safe, take good care of yourself,

Wash your hands often and thoroughly,

and God bless you and keep you.

PS: I have learned reliably overnight that we will continue to be able to hold funerals, under the strict guidelines previously announced: no more than 100 mourners and strict adherence to the new public health practices – social distancing, hand-washing or sanitizing, no hand-shaking etc.

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UPDATE: MARCH 20, 05:10

Yesterday I recorded this video message to motivate you to offer ministry in such a time as this, and not to fear.

Update continues after video

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on parishes in the Church of England to light a candle this coming Sunday, as a symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, shining through our turmoil. I ask you to do the same. There are various liturgies and litanies that you can download from the CofE website and use.

I am grateful to Bishop Allan Kannemeyer of Pretoria, who represented me at a meeting the President held with religious leaders yesterday. (You can read the President’s address to the leaders on his website.) Let us continue to work together and pray together. We shall over overcome, for He has overcome.

I note that, as in Swaziland, the Church in Nambia has had to impose a limit of 50 congregants on its services. Read the Diocese of Namibia’s pastoral plan here.

This morning at the prayer service with clergy of the Diocese of Cape Town, we shall light a candle and say a short prayer. Please join me in praying:

Lord God, in this season of fear and uncertainty,

as we face the threat of the coronavirus,

Grant us the wisdom and determination to walk in one another’s shoes,

The confidence and the humility to draw closer to you and to those affected,

Empower us to pastor those who are ill, to weep for the dead, to support the healers and to care for and love one another.

And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always.

Amen

Note: On Saturday and Sunday, we shall take a break from issuing these updates to be still, reflect and pray more. The next update will be on Tuesday morning.

If you have not read these guidelines before, please continue to read the earlier updates; they are meant to be read as a whole.

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UPDATE: MARCH 19, 05:10

In the worst days of the struggle against apartheid, we cried together, we sang together and we prayed together, and God brought us through our tribulations. In places such as Edendale, Empangeni and Table Mountain in KwaZulu-Natal, and in Kagiso, Katlehong and Sebokeng in Gauteng, faithful priests were present with their people in their townships even when threatened nightly with violence and petrol-bombings.

Our current crisis is different. In Mozambique, the President has decreed that no more than 200 people [this figure was lowered to 50 on March 20: Updated here on March 21] should gather at a time. In South Africa, the limit is 100. In Swaziland, it is even lower: only 50. Even when we gather, the medical experts say we must practise “social distancing”, meaning that we must stay a metre apart from one another.

But common to both situations is the fact that at no time is ministry – and the presence of those who minister – more critical than at times like these. We mustn’t be negligent with people’s lives, but neither is panic and fear the way forward.

That is why I say “Alleluia” when I hear of a parish which has a comprehensive plan for how they are going to connect people and give them a sense of community during this crisis. And it is why I am distressed when the main focus of debates in the church is shutting doors and keeping people away.

Then I have to ask: are you copping out, or do you have a pastoral plan with a positive message for your congregation? Is there not a way of making your church available for private prayer or prayer groups? Do you actually have practical, implementable ideas for using modern media to connect people who can’t or who prefer not to attend services?

As I said with my predecessors, Archbishops Emeriti Desmond and Njongo, earlier this week: “Only mutual love and care for one another will get us through the crisis… Let us take the opportunity to respond by choosing life over death; by choosing knowledge over ignorance; by sharing that knowledge; and by caring about others through taking care of ourselves.”

Of course, we don’t need to congregate to pray. No stigma should be attached to parishioners, lay ministers or servers who choose not to attend services we hold. If parishioners are ill, elderly or otherwise vulnerable, they should be encouraged to pray at home on Sunday, with appropriate ministry extended to them at other times in the week. Whether we worship at church or at home, we have to be one in solidarity.

A special word to young people, drawn from our joint Archbishops’ appeal:

We know you are not scared for yourselves, and some of you may feel that coronavirus is not an African problem. But you might be carriers of the virus without even knowing it. So we appeal to you not to put at risk the lives of those who cared for you when you were children. We know that you are being asked to sacrifice the most for your old people. But please protect those of your parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

Numbers of you have come up with practical suggestions in emails to me, in comments on our Provincial website and via social media. One of them is to hold days of prayer, during which we don’t necessarily need to congregate. On March 22, the Diocese of Swaziland will hold a day of prayer. Tomorrow, Friday March 20, the clergy of the Diocese of Cape Town will meet at St Thomas’ Church, Rondebosch, to devote the hours of 10:00 to 11:30 to prayer.

I encourage other similar initiatives, and I have resolved to establish a Provincial COVID-19 Team to come up with a pastoral plan to look at the practicalities of bringing us together, recognising that there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan.

Now to elaborate on some of the guidelines we have published earlier – and which you can see below on earlier posts:

  • Confirmations and weddings – Try to postpone them, but if you can’t, limit the participants to families or other small groups;
  • Ordinations – Postpone them, or if you can’t, limit them to families, a small parish delegation and Chapter;
  • Funerals – We just have to encourage families to do their best to limit numbers;
  • Sunday School – Consider drawing circles on the floor to keep children at least a metre apart, and build social distancing into your arrivals and lesson plans;
  • If a child has been where an infection is suspected, they should not come to church;
  • Baptisms and anointing with oil should be performed either with the appropriate implements or using hand sanitiser, or soap and water, before and after the act; parents rather than clergy should hold babies being baptised and there should be no baptism by immersion;
  • There should be no foot-washing;
  • Clergy are human beings too! If you show signs of contracting the virus, you must test and self-isolate yourself if need be.

If you have not read these guidelines before, please continue to read the earlier updates; they are meant to be read as a whole.

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UPDATE: MARCH 18, 06:00

Since the updated guidelines on our Province’s response to the coronavirus were published yesterday, a debate has arisen over whether we should suspend our services and close our churches. Parishioners have made useful contributions on social media and Diocesan Chapters have had creative discussions. The Diocese of Johannesburg decided to suspend all services until Easter, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued advice that public worship is suspended until further notice.

My own ecclesiology goes back to the Early Church as recounted in the Acts of Apostles, where Christians always met for fellowship, even in house groups. The issue of numbers is not that important: what is important is creating opportunities for Christians to worship in the way they wish to worship, insofar as that is practically possible.

We will not as a Province be advising the closing of churches nor the suspension of services. My own preference is that we keep our churches open and continue to hold services.

However, we recognise that there are local challenges, and my advice, in order of preference, is the following:

  • That we keep our churches open and hold as many services of no more than 100 as we can within our parishes’ resources; and that we follow strictly the guidance on social distancing – keeping at least a metre apart, and for example, occupying every second row of pews. If you can’t find hand sanitizer, use soap and water. (See also yesterday’s guidelines further down this document.)
  • That if you do suspend services, you arrange to have churches opened for times of prayer for those who want to attend.
  • That as well as allowing for times of prayer for individuals within your churches, parishes organise house groups for worship and prayer, fulfilling our Lord’s promise that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

The key is not to forget the Lord of the Church as we do the work of the Church. We need to proclaim the Gospel, we need to teach, we need to heal and we need to feed the multitude. As we look at the practicalities, we need to return to our Anglican heritage of seeking guidance from scripture, experience, reason and tradition.

The Season of Lent leading up to Holy Week is about moving towards breaking through the cloud of darkness, dispelling fear and birthing light; it is about bringing hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. Let us seek to do that at this challenging time in our history.

PS: This fascinating study on the spread of viruses illustrates Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve”

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UPDATE: MARCH 17, 06:45

This version of the guidelines replaces all previous guidelines.

In Parishes

  • Services should be limited to 100 people. This will mean that many clergy will have to spend longer hours, presiding at more services, on Sundays and popular weekday services – and especially on Good Friday and Easter. We rely on the ingenuity of clergy and Parish Councils as to how you work with regular worshippers on deciding who attends what service (whether by signing up to rosters or some other method).
  • Hand sanitizers should be made available for congregants arriving at and departing from services.
  • Since churches will be emptier, spread yourselves out to keep distances of at least metre between you and your neighbour. I realise that “social distancing” seems a drastic, even unChristian way of behaving towards one another. But the best advice we have from coronavirus experts is that people who are infected but do not show symptoms – including young people who may never have symptoms – may be among those who spread the virus the most. Therefore, keeping physical distance from others – whether or not they have symptoms – is one of the surest ways to slowdown rates of infection.
  • Suspend physical contact with one another at the Peace – don’t shake hands or embrace – instead wave hands to acknowledge the other instead.
  • Develop ways of making the collection without passing around a collection plate.
  • Keep your distance from others while waiting in line to receive the host.
  • Do not touch the Communion rail with your hands. Where possible, stand when receiving Communion.
  • Clergy must use hand sanitizer before they distribute the host/ wafers.
  • Only the priest should consume the wine. This is theologically sound practice and does not invalidate the Eucharist for those who receive it.
  • As you leave, wave to your clergy instead of shaking hands.
  • Parishioners who are ill should stay at home to recover and request home communion or a pastoral visit.
  • No pastoral visits should be undertaken to people who are self-isolating or in quarantine. However, do offer phone support.
  • Ensure good regular cleaning of surfaces which people touch regularly including such things as door handles, light switches, etc.
  • Ensure a good supply of soap or sanitizer in cloakrooms, kitchens etc.
  • Suspend catering (tea/coffee, etc) where multiple people touch mugs, utensils and foodstuffs.

Clergy, Pastoral Workers and Lay representatives

  • No meetings of more than 100 people will be held.
  • Avoid travel unless there are exceptional circumstances. Hold audio or video meetings on Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom and other devices.
  • Clergy should not make direct physical contact with congregants when they bless or lay hands on them. Bishops should not make physical contact when confirming or ordaining congregants.
  • When visiting parishioners at home, wash hands before and after giving the sacraments.
  • If you are making pastoral visits to hospitals or homes for the aged, be strict about disinfecting yourself, washing hands etc before and after your visits. Follow the advice of staff on infection control.
  • Educate yourselves and your congregations on your Government’s guidelines on hygiene and follow them when not dealt with in these guidelines. For example, wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face unless you’ve washed your hands.
  • Matters such as clergy becoming ill and needing leave or sick leave to be handled at Diocesan level under the authority of the Bishop.

These guidelines do not cover every imaginable situation. I rely on you and your Parish Council’s wisdom to develop detailed steps as you face new situations — and do listen to your national and local health authorities. Shortly, I will make available for the clergy appropriate guidance which the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission is helping us develop.

I know these measures sound drastic, and they are, for good reason. We face an emergency. The world is so interconnected that we cannot avoid the virus, so we must do everything we can to educate ourselves to minimise its spread. The prospect of it spreading among the aged, people with TB and other vulnerable groups is too awful to contemplate.

Please take care of yourselves, your loved ones and everyone in your community. We can minimise the spread, but we have to take it seriously to succeed.

I pray that our common life in worship and pastoral care will be rooted in the compassion of Christ and appropriate care for one another in a time of uncertainty.

God bless you.


The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop and Metropolitan

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Scroll down for the latest Responses from readers, which appear at the end

22 replies on “Coronavirus – Updated guidelines from the Archbishop – As at Thursday April 2”

Dear ++ Thabo
While I do understand the need to mitigate the spread of the virus, and I do understand that there are those in our communities, especially those with compromised immune systems – Diabetes, HIV, AIDS, TB, etc who would be especially vulnerable to an infection which affects mainly the lungs, and thus thank you for these guidelines.
However – how are we modelling Faith, Hope, Trust, Love, Compassion, Kindness, to a broken and terrified world? Surely the Church should be modelling a more open, positive, healthy community than that being lived out by ‘the world’?
Those who may come to the Church seeking reassurance, in seeing us behaving no different, and in some ways, worse than, those outside, will not get any reassurance and could thus feel even more lonely and vulnerable.
Love and blessings
Jill
Worshiping at St Gabriel’s Florida, writing in my personal capacity)

yes!!! same thinking and in agreement with what you saying… this is my battles in thought as well. our God is great , is this not a way of excercising our faith and drawing souls to Christ amidst the chaos of the world. viruses has been before and wiped out percentages of the population … its not something new. yet we are not living as children of spiritual welath but by doing exactly this we are conforming to the ways of the world.

God bless you sister, the wisdom he gives us sounds crazy but cause of Our trust and believe in the one who created the world we will be saved.

Greetings!
I echo every word to Jill Turner’s comment. How do we model Faith, love, hope, kindness when we allowing Satan to hold us hostage. Satan is rejoicing and having a field day. Has our faith dwindled, dimished?

I agree – Satan is having a field day spreading confusion and fear among God’s people. We need to be sensible and avoid physical contact and fully trust our God who is faithful and will get us through this trying time. He IS greater than this virus or any other. We need to put our confidence in Him and Him only.

Practically – if you are sick – stay home. If you have had contact with someone who you know to be sick – stay home. If you have a compromised immune system – stay home. If you are elderly – best to stay home. Healthy active Christians need to be sensible,not take risks. We need to practice due care by washing hands regularly and avoiding risky contact. Healthy Christians need to offer as much love, assistance and support as possible to those affected. We need to only spread facts from informed sources and not fake news. We need to spend more time in prayer and God’s word.

‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ Psalm 46:1. Take Him at His Word and do not fear.

Good afternoon I am also of the same opinion as Jill and Michelle that the Devil has been waiting for this especially at this time of Lent. We should shame the Devil and be aware even in these situations GOD is with us and if we truly believe HE will not allow anything evil to touch us. The emphasis is Belief Trust and Love.

Thank you very much ++ Thabo

“Only the priest should consume the wine. This is theologically sound practice and does not invalidate the Eucharist for those who receive it.”

A teaching specifically on this theological practice will be highly appreciated.

Thank you ,in particular, to Fr. M. Mkhuseli and Rev Canon Dr TM Guma and Eunice Phiri for their sound perspective to our current situation with the Pandemic.

As Christians, we are experiencing the coldest winter of our time. It is the season that will pass. Beyond this pandemic there is still hope. We should therefore not despair but be steadfast in our faith. The Lord our God will see us through this season. Not so very long, we will be experiencing the summer of our time. Let us stand together in solidarity in order to become victorious. Stay blessed. ??

Rev Sono Khahlamba Diocese
Receiving in one kind only (bread) is not bad as people think. It is in actual fact an old teaching. It is said that there was a Medieval “heresy” identified by the Roman Church as “Ultraquism”. This heresy said that Christ was only half present in the bread and half present in the wine, and that a communicant needed to receive the whole Christ. In this debate, Rome slowly developed their doctrine that Christ is present “body,blood,soul and divinity” in the bread fully and in the wine fully. In order to combat the heresy, Rome restricted the chalice to the priest. Christ is, according to traditional Catholic teaching fully and truly present in both the bread and wine after consecration. Yes, in any normal circumstance, the communicants should consume both.

Thank you Rev.

Our traditions should be in line with the Doctrine of Christ which is embedded in the Word of God, not man made. 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” So the proclamation is in the eating of bread and drinking of the cup, not one of the two but both. We cannot afford to copy and practice things from elsewhere other than the Word of God, especially when it comes to our faith. Even the Canon are clear on this.

Grace and peace

Thank you your Grace for these guidelines. The reason behind your guidelines is not that we have lost hope and trust in God who is above the situation and circumstances people created in his image (imago Dei) find themselves confounded in, but the reason for these measures is to stem the spread of the COVID19. Felix Mendelsohn’s song titled: ‘Thanks be to God ‘ puts it aptly: ‘ The stormy billows are high, the fury is mighty, but the Lord is above them, and Almighty ‘. Even in this situation situation, the Lord is still above it, and Almighty. All we need to do is to light candles of hope as we lift our voices to our God to interve through the Holy Spirit and give medical doctors the wisdom to heal the virus and to graciously hear our prayers as we call for his intervention in this situation. May the Lord graciously hear our incessant prayers.

The faith of the church is brought to the highest point of growth at this time. We are not taking these measures in order to break away communion amongst God’s people, instead we are reassuring the world of utmost compassion, love and hope in the living God. If we as Christians during these times of self isolation and suspension of church gatherings as we know it, relegate our duty to pray unceasingly, worshiping and holding one another before God in intercession, entrusting ourselves and the world to God’s care, then indeed the devil will rejoice because we would have abandoned our duty.

I say Thank you for these guidelines, because we are indeed in times that will test our faith. At the end of it all, the real question is for
us: “will we as the church still be standing and found faithful after this sacrifice for the health of the entire body of Christ?”…what have we been doing, have we been standing cursing in anger? Or will we go into our wilderness and join with Christ in praying for the world we live in and what we face at present?

I think let’s appreciate that we have proactive people sitting at the helm of our church who make every effort to keep us in the world, so that we are reminded of Jesus who knows our sufferings and struggles as he came to be like us.

Fr Mkhuseli Cape Town

The whole world is suffering because of this virus. Churches close its doors to avoid the spread of this terrible virus yet our leaders knows better and are playing with people’s lives. This virus will hit S.A hard and yet people are not watching and listening to the world stop playing with people’s lives do the right thing stop church services before it’s too late.

Good morning ++Thabo

Enkosi kakhulu Sombawo for showing leadership in these trying times kubomi bethu eNkonzweni.

Your Grace, This is Mary Jean.

My concern is that there is no mention for the priests themselves who may be vulnerable: specifically David Meldrum but any others who are compromised including HIV and TB and elderly (++Desmond).
My suggestions include the involving of church members to reach out to others who may be lonely, isolated by phone.
Churches can:
I) put up notices on their doors, websites and FB pages.
2) arrange streaming of services, especially for Easter – St John’s Wynberg is looking at borrowing facilities of another church
3) arrange prayer meetings in a park at a distance
4) Daily updates of Bible readings especially after Passion Sunday
Blessings to you and Lungi,

MJ

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