OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN SOUTH AFRICA (MCSA) ON COVID-19/CORONA VIRUS OUTBREAK

Compiled by: Rev Godfrey R. Cunningham – President: MCSA 16 March 2020

Dear fellow Moravians and Ecumenical Partners!

We greet all of you, Brothers, Sisters and Children, with the following text: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and sound judgement” 2 Timothy 1:7.

The global outbreak of the COVID-19/Corona Virus, which has been reported upon extensively in the media, no doubt, has turned all aspects of our lives upside down. As Church, being the microcosm of the larger societal macrocosm, we are not spared this abrupt disruption. Over five thousand (5000) lives have been lost already, as a result of this deadly virus, around the globe, with more than 162 000 people having tested positive which has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it a global pandemic, in view of its worldwide reach.

It is now common knowledge that the notorious virus is spread through contact between persons and therefore social distancing is encouraged to limit and prevent its spread, among other measures. This specific measure affects us, as the Church community, directly in terms of our various church gatherings.

The Provincial Board Executive and serving Bishops, in consultation with other relevant stakeholders, amongst them health care practitioners, met this morning, 16 March 2020, at our Head Office in Lansdowne to reflect on the outbreak and its serious and far-reaching implications for the life of the Moravian Church in South Africa.

The following practical suggestions are therefore hereby recommended by the MCSA leadership for implementation:

  • Ward systems to be utilized optimally to mitigate against the Governmental guideline that gatherings should not exceed 100 people.
  • Furthermore, for large gatherings like Maundy Thursday/Good Friday Holy Communion services, etc we recommend that congregations with a general attendance exceeding 100 people arrange staggered services. This entails that Ministers and Church Councils arrange two or more services, as required, for the serving of Holy Communion.

Worship services, including Holy Communion Services, will continue but in line with the guidelines provided by WHO and our own National Department of Health as follows:

  • Provision should be made for the washing of hands with soap and water/hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms. To this end, we advise that persons with these and related symptoms to stay at home and request home communion or pastoral visit, as desired.
  • To minimize physical contact with other people, we encourage the elbow greeting or the bow rather than shaking hands. Specifically, the laying on of hands by Ministers during confirmation services be done symbolically.
  • As a general precautionary measure, all church halls are disinfected before and after each service/gathering.
  • In order to create awareness on the above hygiene measures, congregations are called upon to put up relevant information posters.
  • The Moravian Church further discourages foreign travel and to a lesser extent, non-essential domestic travel.

Specifically, for Holy Communion Services, the following guidelines apply:

The shared Chalice/Holy Communion Cup is central to Moravian theology and therefore it may not be tampered with. Therefore all celebrants should be in possession of alcohol-based wipes for sanitization of the Chalice after every single use. In order to minimize possible touching of the Chalice by different hands, we advise that the celebrant holds the Chalice in front of the sacramental table and serve it to the congregation who will step forward.

While due care has been taken by the church leadership to observe all the hygiene protocols for our Holy Communion services, however, if individual members still feel uneasy about drinking from the Chalice/Cup, they are welcome not to physically drink from the Chalice but to symbolically touch it after which the celebrant will sanitize it.
Ministers and Church Councils are hereby reminded that alcohol-based wine be used for Communion Services as alcohol is regarded to be a germ killer. Likewise, the original metal chalices are used as opposed to glass chalices as the zinc in the metal chalices is also regarded as a germ killer.

Brothers, Sisters and Children, we acknowledge the fact that some of these preventative measures, will bring about inconvenience and deviation from the norms in our church, however these are desperate times and therefore desperate measures are called for. We therefore beg your indulgence in observing them. Furthermore, the above measures are, by no means, an indication that we do not trust our omnipotent God to help us in the face of this present crisis. If anything, our faith in God requires of us to be responsible Stewards since we are in God’s mission and act as His eyes, hands and feet to affect the healing and caring entrusted to us.

In conclusion, while we might feel genuinely TROUBLED by the pandemic, however, we are definitely not DESTROYED (2 Cor. 4:8). We draw courage from Psalm 91:3 “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fouler and from the perilous pestilence”.

For any uncertainty please do not hesitate to contact this office.

Brotherly Yours

Rev Godfrey R. Cunningham