Dear Bishops, Clergy, and Christians,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Last night, His Excellency, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, announced a limited re-opening of schools and churches. In this pastoral letter, I would like to give more guidance to our congregations.
First, we extend our sincerest thanks to the President, the Ministry of Health, and the National Covid Task Force for their unwavering commitment to keeping Ugandans as safe as possible during this Covid pandemic. As the Church of Uganda, we continue to pledge our support to the cause of keeping all Ugandans healthy.
Secondly, we express our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially those who have died from it. We are also concerned about the unfairness and fighting during the primary elections and call on all those contending for political office to set an example of peaceful campaigning that represents our aspiration for peaceful governance.
I want to thank the First Lady and Minister of Education, Hon. Mama Janet Museveni, and her entire team at the Ministry of Education for working tirelessly to keep children learning even when schools were closed for classes. It’s not been easy for children to be away from school for so long. We also offer our deep condolence to the wider Makerere University on the destruction of the historic Main Administration Building from Saturday night’s fire. We hope there will be a thorough investigation to determine the cause.
As schools re-open for candidate classes and finalists, I urge all Church of Uganda-founded schools to work closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure the safe return of our children to school. The Provincial Directorate for Education is also available for support. We thank the National Council for Higher Education for approving UCU to begin offering online classes in a few weeks. This is a breakthrough in Business Unusual; UCU’s leadership and administration is also to be commended for the many hours of work and preparation to reach this milestone.
At long last, churches will also re-open for public worship… sort of. We are, of course, longing for the day when we can all gather together in the same place at the same time. But, we’re very, very grateful for this beginning of allowing 70 people at a time to gather together in a socially distanced way to offer prayers and worship to the Lord.
Many are asking, “How is this going to work?” Let me offer three practical steps:
In the early church, the Book of Acts summarizes how the Apostles, who were the first church leaders, conducted their ministry. It says, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5.42) It is clear that the pattern for worship in the early church was large group public worship in the temple courts, and, at the same time, worship at home.
In the Church of Uganda, we’ve been very good at congregational worship, but not as good at worship at home. So, the Lord sent us on lockdown for six months to strengthen our worship at home. Now, slowly by slowly, corporate worship is being re-introduced. But, Worship at Home should also continue. The early church did both, and so should we!
- Every Bishop and Diocesan Office has received a copy of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda’s guidelines for resuming public worship, along with a training format to use in training all church leaders. Make sure your local church’s leadership has been trained in implementing all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for churches. This includes how to support children and children’s ministry.
For larger congregations, however, it will be impossible for the entire congregation to be able to gather in different groups of 70 people for a corporate worship service. My own Cathedral, for example, averages 4,000 people on a Sunday spread across three different services. To cater for all 4000 people in groups of 70, we would need to schedule 57 different worship services, which is simply not practical.
- We appeal to the government to reconsider the guidelines and offer maximum seating based on the number of square metres in the worship space rather than a fixed number of people, regardless of the size of the room.
- We also appeal to the government to allow outdoor gatherings for worship with all appropriate SOPs in place.
- We also urge the continuation of all media-based worship services, whether by radio, TV, Facebook, YouTube, or video conferencing, and for families to utilize them in their household routine of Worship at Home.
- Once again, we extend our deepest appreciation to the media houses for their support in broadcasting worship services into almost every home in the country. We appeal now for your continued weekly support because we still need you.
- Worship from Home is part of our “new normal.” If you’re concerned about gathering with others for public worship, please avail yourself of worship opportunities at home through media-based worship services. If your local congregation is so big that not everyone can gather in groups of 70 on a Sunday, then take advantage of the many media-based worship services available.
- Please also be aware that there are a number of children’s worship services being offered through different media, so make sure your children have the opportunity to engage with media-based children’s worship.
- For those who are able to gather at churches for public worship, please continue to also Worship from Home… because the Bible urges us to do both. It says, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5.42)
Finally, early on in the lockdown, I promised that when churches re-opened for public worship that we would have a general Thanksgiving to the Lord for keeping us and bringing us this far. I, therefore, invite every congregation in the Church of Uganda to observe a Thanksgiving on Sunday, 4th October. If you have been setting aside your offering and keeping it until this day of Thanksgiving, it is now here.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95)
Yours, in Christ,
The Most Rev. Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.