On Wednesday, the Dutch Reformed Church, together with member churches of the South African Council of Churches (SARK), presided. Cyril Ramaphosa meets on the possibility of allowing religious gatherings with certain restrictions at the time of the level 3 lockdown. The SARC has also made suggestions on how churches can still operate within the framework of lockdown regulations.
Dr. Gustav Claassen, general secretary of the Dutch Reformed Church, says with the country that may soon move to level 3 of lockdown, there is an increasing possibility that church meetings can also be allowed. The lockdown regulations have so far prohibited any church meetings.
During the discussion with Ramaphosa, the SARC sought to find a way to resume religious gatherings, with regulations and protocol to prevent infections.
Claassen says, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, of the Anglican Church, a document was drawn up containing suggestions from member churches on how churches can still function within the framework of seclusion regulations.
The document was presented to the president on May 19 by the executive committee of the SARK Executive Committee. They are still waiting for government response.
In the document, the SARC proposes that church meetings be allowed in safer areas, in line with government test results. “Because some parts of the country are safer than others, religious gatherings, with limited numbers, should be allowed in safer areas if the necessary preventive measures are put in place,” the document states.
The SARC also proposes that churches themselves should be held accountable for the regulation of safety, the maintenance of precautions, and compliance with seclusion regulations at rallies.
They also suggest that the leadership of each church itself will have the power to accredit selected ministers, lay workers, and volunteers as “essential church workers” to perform essential spiritual and pastoral work.
The SARC also wants churches to be considered for financial assistance under Covid-19-related provisions. These include the Temporary Employee and Employer Aid Scheme (TERS) and other support for church workers who provide essential pastoral services such as ministers, caregivers and counselors.
“Churches have supported the necessary regulations and protocols to combat the spread of the virus since the enactment period, and continue to do so. However, a healthy balance must be struck between resuming religious activities and adhering to measures to limit the spread of the virus, ”says Claassen.