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Christians Throng Churches After Six Months of Closure

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The worshippers were seen wearing facemasks and washing their hands before entering the church.
Congregants lining up before entering Virika Cathedral on Sunday. Pix By Wilson Akiiki Kaija

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Christians in different parts of the country on Sunday thronged churches for prayers following six months of closure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Last week, President Museveni’s said that places of worship would be reopened with only 70 congregants observing all the Standard Operating Procedures- SOPs. individual prayers/confessions, night prayers and Sunday school, among others were banned.

At Kigungu Catholic Church in Entebbe, more than 100 people flocked the church but only 70 were allowed inside while the rest remained outside. The worshipers were seen wearing face masks and washing their hands before entering the church.

Robert Ssegawa, the head of the laity at Kigungu church says handling the big number was challenging because some people wanted to forcefully enter the church, despite all the seats being occupied. 

He says that some Christians who turned up without wearing face masks were asked to leave.     

 

According to Rosemary Ssebunza, a Christian at Kigungu Catholic Church, three ushers had been deployed outside to enforce the SOPs but they were overpowered by the excited Christians forcing the Church to deploy five extra ushers.

At Gates of Heaven Church, Christians had their temperature taken, hands sanitized before they were allowed to enter the Church.

At St. Anthony Sub Parish Entebbe Catholic Church in Katabi-Namate, more than 70 worshipers turned up for the first mass which started at 9:00 am. Due to the high turn up, the wardens told some worshipers to sit outside the church. 

67- year-old Rose Nabakooza and Regina Nadujja were excited that places of worship have been reopened after six months.      

Nandujja says COVID-19 will be defeated by divine intervention.       

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However, some churches which include Watoto Church Entebbe, St. Peters Church of Uganda Entebbe Parish and Bugonga Catholic Parish Entebbe did not open leaving some Christians disappointed.    

At St. Peters Church of Uganda, there was a notice that the church will reopen next Sunday.      

Agnes Nanfuka one of the residents of Lugonjo-Nakiwogo says that she was disappointed that the Church was closed. She says that since last week when President Museveni announced reopening of places of worship, she has been gearing up for today's prayers.

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At Lubaga Catholic Cathedral in Kampala, only 70 congregants attended today’s service.

Worshipers were seen wearing face masks and washing their hands before entering the church.

The Archbishop of Kampala Dr Cyprian Lwanga who led the mass urged people to respect Covid-19 SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health.

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Fr Achilles Mayanja, the Parish Priest of Lubaga Cathedral, said they have introduced 10 services every Sunday.

At Namirembe Cathedral, more than 300 congregants had turned up but they were informed that services will begin next Sunday.

At All Saints Nakasero, all SOPs were adhered to. All the congregants were tested for the temperature at the entrance of the Church, there were also handing washing facilities outside the Church.

Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga, of Christian Life Church in Bwaise, said that he will be conducting 11 services every Sunday where each will be attended by 700 people.

Ssenyonga says that he has adequate for the worshipers.

When URN reporter visited the Church on Sunday, there were 210 worshipers who were put in three groups each with 70 worshipers.

Ssenyonga said his church sits on more than 15 acres of land and it accommodates over 30,000 worshipers. He said the big space will enable them respect and observe the SOPs.

“When I walked in here today at 7:00 am, I found this space already filled. People said they are hungry and thirsty. When I saw what I saw, the scripture came to me. Jesus saw people scattered and had compassion for them. This is why we have resolved to 700 people per service which will be lasting for only one hour,” Ssenyonga said.

In Fort Portal, Churches strictly adhered to the COVID-19 guidelines. At the entrance of Virika Cathedral, there were security personnel who were taking the temperature of the congregants and at the same time registering their names, place of residence and their temperature readings.

The entrance was restricted to only 70 congregants. The seats were also disinfected before other worshipers come in for subsequent masses.  

Virika Cathedral resolved to conduct four masses to cater for the overwhelming number of worshipers.

At Jesus Supply Church of Uganda in Rwengoma, children were also blocked from entering the church. Only two people were allowed to sit on a bench but added that he was too excited to congregate for prayers once again after a long time.

St John's Cathedral erected a tent outside for those who came after the mandatory number. All congregants were also asked to wash hands before entering and they kept their face masks on until the service ended.

However, what was common at all churches is that those who turned up for prayers were not as many as they used to be before the outbreak of COVID-19.  

Sharon Karungi, a resident of Fort Portal said she is still afraid of mass gatherings including attending church services.  

“This deadly disease is still around. I will go back to church after one month,” she said. 

According to a statement issued by Ruwenzori Diocese, church leaders in the diocese were asked to conduct as many services as possible depending on the number of congregants and the church size.  

At St. Paul’s Cathedral Church of Uganda in Kasese, more than 50 worshipers were at the Church as early as 7:00 am.

Most of them wore face masks and there was strict adherence to the washing of hands and measuring of temperature.  Social distancing was observed with believers separated from each other by at least a meter and a half. 

Milton Thembo, a Christian at St. Paul’s Cathedral, says as a Christians the re-opening has restored his faith in the God. 

Rev. Eric Sabbithi Bikanja urged the Christians to make sure they continue praising God amidst the challenges of Covid-19.

Rev. Deacon Francis Mwanje who led mass at the Kasese Catholic Diocese encouraged Christians to adhere to the SOPs urging that Covid-19 might be one of the diseases we shall live with forever.

   

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