Covid-19 Disruptions in the Catholic Diocese of Bethlehem in the Free State, South Africa
Keywords:Bethlehem, online sermons, Covid-19, lockdown, parishioners
Since the beginning of Christianity, pulpit or church sermons have been the primary mode of delivering sermons. The last decade has seen huge progress in technological advancement in Africa. Several pastors have now empowered themselves with the use of technology in their ministry and in delivering sermons. In 2019, Covid-19 swept across the globe and caused worldwide panic. In South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported the first case of Covid-19 in March 2020. To contain the spread of the coronavirus, the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, announced a lockdown for 21 days and alert level 5 was imposed on South Africans. That compelled all South Africans to stay at home, and all faith-based gatherings were prohibited. Thus, preaching the Word of God in churches was prohibited. During the pandemic, online sermons or the streaming of church services online became a popular way of hearing Sunday sermons. This article discusses the historical use of technology, for example, radio and television, which were the tools employed to reach out further. We will explore the recent use of online sermons and electronic communion in churches, particularly in the Catholic Church. Statistics will be scrutinised to examine the effects of online sermons and faith practices (electronic communion). In achieving the goal of this article, the study utilised desk research and oral interviews through a narrative analysis of aspects mentioned by church leaders and congregants considered to relate directly to online sermons and electronic communion. The following will be points of discussion: methodology, with a brief discussion of data collection and analysis; the Covid-19 crisis; the impact of coronavirus and leadership; alternative methods employed by the Diocese of Bethlehem; challenges with online sermons; successes; electronic communion; recommendations; and conclusion.
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Chronological List of Interviews
Prof Lukwikilu Mangayi. 31 March 2022, at St John Vianney Seminary.
Fr. Sifiso Thusi. 22 June 2022, at Bishop’s House.
Fr. Michael Atoro. 2 July 2022, at St Kizito Presbytery.
Fr. William Kaupa. 17 July 2022, at St Kizito Presbytery.
Ms Sylvia Mofokeng. 8 August 2022, at her house in Bethlehem.
Fr. Anslem Njoku. 10 September 2022, at John Paul II Centre.
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