1. THE PROLONGED LOCKDOWN
The country has been in lockdown since 26 March 2020. Indications are that Coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future. We were on lockdown Level 5 from 26 March until 30 April 2020. From 1 May 2020 it moved to Level 4. Some of the business sectors were allowed to operate under stringent lockdown regulations. Religious places remained closed.
2. CHURCH’S ATTEMPT TO ENGAGE GOVERNMENT
We were not at all happy about the prolonged prohibitions of church activities. We wrote to Government and proposed that pastors be regarded as part of the essential services and that church administrative staff be allowed to operate from church offices under Level 4 regulations. We did not receive any acknowledgement nor response to our letter.
As part of attempts to get a hearing from Government we are part of the weekly discussions of the SACC (South African Council of Churches) National Church Leaders Forum. Recently we were part of the 38 churches who made submission with Freedom of Religion South Africa (FORSA) on the essential role of pastors and the gradual opening of church operations and ministries. We are also part of the National Pentecostal Forum representing 2.4 million members and making similar submissions.
On Wednesday, 13 May 2020 the President of the country, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation. In his address he alluded to the prospects of the country moving to Level 3 from 1 June 2020, while some areas with high infection rates remain at the current level. Our expectation is that Level 3 will allow relaxation of some of the current restrictions. We hope that this transition will be made clearer as we move towards the end of this month.
The President indicated that there will be consultation with relevant stakeholders. We will make use of this opportunity to engage with Government again. We will do so as AFM leadership and also, as part of Ecumenical Christian Organizations.
3. APPEAL TO REGIONAL LEADERS AND PASTORS TO REMAIN IN CONTACT WITH THOSE THEY SERVE
The prolonged lockdown has been difficult for our members and pastors. They are beginning to experience lockdown exhaustion. Some of those who needed pastoral counseling were not able to access it because pastors were not seen to be providing essential services. Guidance and messages of encouragement are needed. It is for this reason that I call upon our pastors to provide guidance and encouragement to our members.
I am requesting Regional Leaders to provide guidance and motivation to pastors in their regions. This can be done through the establishment of digital communication platforms such as WhatsApp. Pastors should also establish such platforms for purposes of contact with members at the local assembly level. The Departmental structures should also consider the same. We can still contact those we serve through phone calls.
4. SPECIAL TEMPORARY COVID-19 SOCIAL RELIEF OF DISTRESS (SRD) GRANT
In this communication I am including information on the SRD Grant for our members above 18 years who have become vulnerable due to unemployment and are not receiving any grant from the Government. I am requesting pastors to share this information with their members: