Worship for Catholics and Anglicans depends on in-person and face-to-face ritual contact. For instance, the Eucharist, which is the centerpiece of the Liturgy on Sundays, can only be administered in person. The priest and the person confessing must meet physically.
When COVID-19 broke out in the country in March 2020, the government announced a raft of measures to contact the spread of the highly contagious disease. Key among the measures was to close all places of social gatherings and worship to minimize human contact and therefore interrupt the spread of the virus.
This saw places of worship especially churches resorting to online services to allow their followers to fellowship from the comfort of their homes. Early this year, the government reopened the economy fully and allowed places of worship to resume their normal operations and services. However, it appears a section of Christians seems to have gotten
used to praying via television, radio, and other online platforms and have
since failed to physically return to their respective churches.
Several churches that our reporter sampled for the purposes of this story noted that ever since the government lifted the restriction on congregational prayers, a sizeable
number of faithful still prefer attending their Sunday services and mass from the comfort
of their homes. All Saints’ cathedral (Anglican) is one of the churches that
has noticed this phenomenon. Ivan Naijuka, the spokesperson of the Cathedral notes
that they have witnessed a sharp decrease in the in-person congregations compared to the pre-COVID-19 closure.
//Cue in; “No, from when…
Cue out…reduced numbers, yes.”//
Catholic churches have also experienced a similar situation, according to Rev Fr Deogratias Kiibi Kateregga, the Mpigi parish priest. “Before this deadly disease, Sunday attendance for Christians
(in Uganda) rated strongly and significantly. COVID-19 came and changed this as
all places of worship closed. Unfortunately, some of our people still want to
pray using radio and television,” Rev Fr Kiibi Kateregga told our reporter.
Worship for Catholics and Anglicans depends on in-person and face-to-face ritual contact. For instance, the Eucharist, which is the
centerpiece of the Liturgy on Sundays, can only be administered in person. The
priest and the person confessing must meet physically.
Confessions cannot be
heard via the phone or the Internet. This stopped virtual forms of
worship from becoming commonplace or well-appreciated, even though Mass was broadcast
for the first time on television in 1948. Different churches are taking advantage of the
festive season to make robust communication campaignsurging Christians to return
to church for in-person worship.
Rt. Rev. Joseph Antony Zziwa, the chairman of the Uganda episcopal
conference, says that Catholics should not forget that attendance of Sunday masses
is a must.
Zziwa, who is also the ordinary of the Kiyinda Mityana diocese, says that
the church had waived this to protect the lives of the faithful during the COVID-19 pandemic but since the restrictions have been lifted faithfully must return to
//Cue in; “in our catechism…
Cue out…back to church.”//
//Cue in; “Tumanyi bulungi nti…
Cue out…okusoma ku Sunday.”//
Fr. Kiibi says that in-person attendance of church is a full commandment, which Christians, mostly Catholics, have to honor. He adds that in-person worship also helps the faithful to come together and actively participate in prayer.
//Cue in; “In Mathew…
Cue out…on, hands-on.”//
Ivan Naijuka, the spokesperson of the All Saint's Cathedral notes that many aspects of worshiping on
Sunday require personal attendance. Just like Fr Kiibi, Naijuka says that physical fellowship is another form of social capital that
the faithful require because it might occasionally prevent them from feeling
//Cue in; “Number one is…
Cue out… don’t know you.”//
The challenge of faithful not returning to church is not unique
to Uganda. It is currently prevalent all across the world. Although no research has been conducted in Uganda to this effect, numerous studies conducted abroad
have shown that churches still have difficulty regaining in-person
attendees who were lost due to pandemic closures.
For instance, research in Britain found that, after the
churches fully reopened, 61 percent of those surveyed stated that they desired to
return to regular Mass attendance but a significant 35 percent insisted that
they would pray online.
Another evangelism explosion study done by lifeway research
indicates that a quarter of Christian adults in the US claim they attend
church at least once a week, down from a third who say they attended as
regularly before the epidemic.
Naijuka points out that as they appeal to the faithful to
gather again for in-person worship, it is important to realize that a "new
normal" has taken the place of the pre-COVID-19 reality. He says that the new environment demands both adaptability and resilience,
embracing new ways of doing things and of being the church.