NUMBERS DWINDLE

Scared worshippers avoid church over coronavirus

No service was cancelled but numbers declined, hand-washing, sanitiser offered.

In Summary

• On Friday, the government suspended all the public gatherings after the first case of coronavirus in Kenya was confirmed.

• The government has not clarified the number of people it forbids to gather. No church has yet cancelled its regular Saturday or Sunday services.

Deliverence Church Umoja during thirdservice on March 15.
LESS THAN HALF: Deliverence Church Umoja during thirdservice on March 15.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

The coronavirus significantly reduced church attendance on Saturday and Sunday after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kenya.

Churches took precautions such as handwashing facilities and providing hand sanitisers.

On Friday, the government suspended all public gatherings in the country.

 

On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced two more coronavirus cases who came into contact with the first patient who landed from the US via London, raising the total to three.

However, the government has not clarified the number of people who should not assemble. The virus spreads rapidly in crowds.

No church has yet said it has cancelled its regular Saturday and Sunday services.

The Parklands-based, Jubilee Christian Church, on Sunday morning assured worshippers through Facebook they had taken precautionary hygiene measures.

However, some have asked their members to attend on a voluntary basis.

On Saturday, Lavington-based Seventh Day Adventist advised its members to attend subsequent Sabbath services on a voluntary basis.

On Sunday a spot check by the Star revealed that churches were providing handwashing facilities and sanitisers.

 

At the Westlands-based St Marks ACK Church, congregants were provided with hand sanitisers as were many churches in the Nairobi CBD.

Nevertheless, attendance declined.

About half the number of congregants attended the Assumption of Mary Catholic Church in Umoja.

At Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Muguga on the outskirts of Nairobi, congregants washed their hands before and after mass.

On Saturday, the Lavington SDA Church offered online streaming services as an alternative to attending Saturday fellowships.

In Embu, the Salvation Army placed water at the entry and a big lettered notice informing the faithful to wash their hands before going inside the church.

At Bishop Kims’ Methodist Church in Kenya (MCK) the head clergy, the Rev Paul Kithuka banned handshaking.

As a church tradition, after each Sunday service, worshippers they line up outside the church and shake hands as a sign of goodwill.

The Catholic Church on Saturday asked its priests to maintain high hygiene in performing the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The church has also ordered temporary removal of the Holy Water  — water sanctified by a priest for blessing and believed to repel evil — from the waterfonts and baptismal.

(Reporting by Reuben Githinji, Trizza Kimani, Mercy Mumo, and Douglas Okiddy)

(Edited by V. Graham)