Zimbabwe: Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday At Home

Christians countrywide celebrated Palm Sunday at home, with churches using WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, teleconferencing and live streaming to reach out to their congregations in observance of the ban on large gatherings.

Palm Sunday is observed a week before Easter to mark Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem ahead of his crucifixion.

Normally, Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations mark the day with processions through their communities or around their churches, with worshippers waving palm branches and crosses folded from strips of palm and singing celebratory hymns.

There were no such processions on Sunday as churches turned to social media to distribute verses and sermons to their members, some of whom held mini-services in their yards.

Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa Diocese of Harare live-streamed Bishop Farai Mutamiri's sermon from the church's Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints in the city centre.

In an interview, Bishop Mutamiri, who based his sermon on Matthew 21 verses 1-21, said it went well, though many people wished they could have physically participated.

Only the video crew was in church.

"Basically, my message was centred on the humility shown by Jesus as he was coming into Jerusalem," said Bishop Mutamiri.

"It is my wish for all spiritual and political leaders in the country to emulate that kind of humility."

Bishop Mutamiri urged all members to heed the Government's call for people to stay at home and observe lockdown measures.

Salvation Army chief secretary Colonel Trustmore Muzorori said his church reached out to members through broadcasting on social media, while a circular was sent to all its officers across the country to make use of social media during the lockdown.

He said as church leaders, they would educate members about the importance of adhering to the lockdown measures.

"Yes, we abstained from going to church, but our gospel is unstoppable," said Col Muzorori.

"We can do it from our homes. We cannot go out there. Coronavirus is real. It has claimed many lives, hence we cannot pretend it does not exist."

Col Muzorori said his members were quick to understand the Government's call for compliance with the directive to stay home during the lockdown period.

"What you should bear in mind is that as Salvation Army, the war with the devil is not only fought from the church, the church started from home," he said.

"We congregate to strengthen the Church while coming from our homes."

Col Muzorori said the same will happen with Easter celebrations that will be televised through social media platforms.

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) secretary-general Father Fradereck Chiromba said only priests conducted masses across the country.

"Our churches are closed to the public," he said.

"Only the priest celebrates mass, with no congregation. The mass was live-streamed for parishioners who want to follow."

Pentecostal churches, which normally do not celebrate Palm Sunday, used live-streaming to reach out to their audiences for their Sunday services, while others used their television channels for the summons.

Government issued a ban on all public gatherings in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The ban includes weddings, church gathering, sporting events and national celebrations until a review is conducted.

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