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Virtual church services welcome remedy in a world thirsty for hope

By Namulanda Kizito | May 17th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Apart from the toddler that kept interrupting, uttering several incomprehensible consonants and letting out attention-seeking cries, everybody else in the house was attentive, almost in supplication as they followed the church service.

The spot that has for so many years looked like a football pitch to me as I followed my favourite team, Arsenal, occasionally put a wide smile on my face, is now slowly turning into an altar of some kind, thanks to the coronavirus.

It has now become the new routine for everyone in the house to turn to the television set every Sunday morning for spiritual nourishment.

Most churches have turned to technology to enable them transmit Sunday church services via Facebook and YouTube to keep their faithful engaged.

For some like my church, the online service is always a complete package with Sunday School setting the stage for the main service via the church’s YouTube channel before an engagement for the teenagers in the evening. 

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It is interesting how quickly churches adopted to the new ways of doing things after the Covid-19 disruption almost shuttered the world. Just a few weeks ago, we could have been bubbling full of life in the church, worshipping the Lord.

You all know that popular worship song – This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice, and be glad in it. Then the worship leader would replace the day with church, country, sister and brother etc, and go on and on. Don’t you all miss shaking hands with the person seated next to you as you sang this popular song?

If anyone had dared suggest that this would disappear before we crossed the half mark of 2020, most would have declared that person out of mind. Now we are all here, missing the church pews, not knowing when places of worship will be reopened.

But the churches’ response to this unprecedented disruption has been quick adoption of technology. Many churches now use technology to keep in touch with their members. A touch that members need so much given the challenges they are facing.

There can never be a better time to be reminded that God is in control than now. Even those people who have never bothered about God have been asking, loudly, what is the Lord saying?

Suddenly they seem to have realised that science alone is not enough. To which, of course, all the people of God must be saying – Amen.

Even though most people must be missing the pews, the singing, the worship and brief networking sessions after every service, I must admit that, to me, these virtual services are increasingly starting to look normal. If not doing so already, churches must be thinking of how to make them better in future.

Going forward, there will be virtual services and physical ones in churches. This is the new reality. New normal if you like. It might have started as a stop-gap measure but has quickly transformed into an expectation. Members will be expecting their churches to transmit virtual services every Sunday.

Perhaps, it all started at State House. You will remember that among the things President Uhuru Kenyatta did shortly after announcing measures to curb spread of Covid-19, was leading the country into a session of national prayer.

President Kenyatta asked Kenyans to pray from their homes and workplaces since all places of worship had been closed. This was not a normal kind of prayer session where all religious leaders, dignitaries and several choirs join in.

While making the announcement, he stressed the importance of turning to God at such a time. It must have been along the same lines that Harmony Institute for Peace assembled leaders from various religious and spiritual backgrounds via Zoom to pray for humanity.

When I first saw the poster announcing the virtual prayer session, I wondered just how it was going to work. I wondered whether the intention was to get as many people as possible to join in the prayers.

As I later learnt, it was for a very simple reason: For brothers and sisters from different religious and spiritual backgrounds to come together and say a prayer for humanity as one family.

After all, all of us being humans, we belong to one family – the family of humanity.

When the session started, Mustafa Genc, the executive director of the institute whose focus is to promote dialogue across various religious and spiritual communities, said the challenges that the world is facing now requires all humanity to come together and pray. And he was right, Covid-19 pandemic has literally stopped the world.

-The writer is head of Think Outdoor and Editorial Convergence at Standard Group.

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