Kenya: City Churches Citam, Parklands Baptist Opt Out of Reopening Plan

Nairobi — Several religious leaders have opted to have their places of worship remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic despite government allowing a phased reopening of places of worship under strict containment guidelines.

The Christ is the Answer Ministries(CITAM) in a letter to to its congregants on Saturday noted church assemblies will not reopen immediately in the wake of increased coronavirus infections citing the need for more time to monitor the situation.

"We wish to inform you that after due consultation with the CITAM elders and the pastoral team, we are of the collective view that we should not reopen our assemblies immediately, this is especially in the interest of preserving lives in this period when the COVID-19 infections are rising sharply," CITAM Presiding Bishop David Oginde said in a statement.

"As Parkland Baptist Church, we, however, think the limit of 100 people per service will not be sufficient for us, also recognizing that a significant proportion of our church members consist of families with young children, we are therefore concerned that the wholesome family fellowship which we greatly value will be affected," a memo from Nairobi's Parklands Baptist Church read.

Nairobi Chapel also issued a similar statement.

"We will not reopen immediately, we acknowledge that we have all missed physical gathering for worship but this decision is purely in the interest of being responsible in upholding the health of our congregants," Nairobi Chapel Senior Pastor Nick Korir wrote to the church members.

Deliverance Church Umoja also said, "We are not yet congregating; we will still have our online church as usual until further communication."

The move to maintain online services by churches comes days after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on July 6 that churches can reopen under strict guidelines developed by an interfaith council he appointed to review phased reopening of churches.

He also said that the services will only last an hour once churches reopen on July 14.

Additionally, Sunday Schools and Madrassas shall remain suspended until further notice, and in-person worship shall not include congregants under the age of thirteen years or above the age of 58 years or persons with underlying conditions.

Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria, the Chairperson of the Interfaith Council, said every place of worship will be expected to form a COVID-19 committee that will oversee monitoring the adherence of the new measures.

But even as some churches opt to continue with online services, a research conducted by Infotrak Research in May revealed that 59 per cent of Kenyans are in support of plans to re-open places of worship but under strict COVID-19 protocols.

At the same time, a survey conducted in June sponsored by ShahidiHub Africa Limited revealed that over 64 per cent of religious leaders wanted churches to be reopened immediately.

The pollster interviewed 429 church leaders in 33 counties out of 47 between May 22 and June 20.

Places of worship in Kenya have remained closed since March 22 and have been conducting online services, in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has disrupted livelihoods.

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