Anglican churches are not yet ready to resume worship in church buildings, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said in a letter to church members on Thursday.
He said the church’s Covid-19 advisory team – comprising medical, legal and theological experts – had reached “a consensus that it is not yet time to resume worship”.
“No diocese so far has pronounced that it is ready to resume worship; most reports suggest that it will take a month or two – or longer – to gather the data needed before a decision can be made,” he wrote.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that religious groups could resume services for up to 50 people from June 1, provided they adhere to health and safety protocols.
But a number of churches have since decided not to open, with the country still heading for an anticipated peak in Covid-19 infections.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reopening for worship. Dioceses outside South Africa have differing lockdown regimens. Within South Africa, different dioceses face differing levels of infection and will have to adjust their strategies according to data on the level of risk in their areas [just as government is doing],” said the letter.
Makgoba said churches would have to meet a comprehensive and detailed set of conditions before reopening for services.
These included: limiting congregants in a service to 50, disinfecting surfaces between services, physical distancing in churches, the avoidance of shared hymnals and prayer books, the wearing of masks, restrictions on singing, avoidance of a common cup at communion services, no gat/herings after services and rigorous hygiene in toilets and elsewhere.
He also stressed that there was “very serious concern about the return of parishioners and clergy who are over 60 years old”.
Synagogues in SA are set to remain closed for at least another two weeks to ensure safety precautions are in place, in line with regulations imposed under level 3 lockdown.
In a letter to the Jewish community on Wednesday, chief rabbi Warren Goldstein said: “Widespread support has now emerged for a two-week moratorium on our shuls reopening. The plan is that until Tuesday June 16, our shuls will hold off on reopening — and that we use this period to assess both the unfolding health situation in the country at large, and the readiness and capability of shuls to implement the very strict health and safety protocols that need to be in place.”