13 December 2020
URGENT DIRECTIVE TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE SYNOD
Dear Colleagues, Leaders, Organization Heads and Members of the Cape of Good Hope Synod,
May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Medical historian, Dr Howard Markel, in his paper, Contemplating Pandemics: The Role of Historical Inquiry in Developing Pandemic Mitigation Strategies for the 21st Century writes, “The history of epidemics is littered with tales demonstrating the importance of bold, decisive leadership and the costs of ineffective or incompetent crisis management.” (Institute of Medicine. 2007. Ethical and Legal Considerations in Mitigating Pandemic Disease: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11917)
In the past two weeks, following reports of a resurgence of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in South Africa, an official announcement from Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize on 9 December 2020, confirmed that South Africa has officially entered into a “second wave.” From the official statistics, it is reported that the Western Cape is one of the key drivers of the increased numbers. Given this changing situation, and my last correspondence to the Synod, our Synod Management Team and I, on Saturday 12 December, once again sought counsel from the experts on our Synod Covid Team. We undertook to listen very carefully to the interpretation of various official reports, and in particular, the projected impact on the lives of the people and communities within and beyond the boundaries of the Synod which we lead.
A. UPDATED SITUTATION IN THE WESTERN CAPE
Some of the critical factors that were included in the discussion were the following:
1. The present resurgence is increasing more rapidly than in the “first wave” with an alarming 409% increase in infections in the Cape Metro in the past 7 days alone. Previously the doubling time was measured in weeks, while now it is measured in days.
2. More tests are being conducted than when the “first wave” ended, with the proportion of tests coming back positive increasing to an average of 18%, and some areas as high as 40%. (This is considerably higher than the acceptable rate of between 4 and 8%.) While the Health systems are increasing their capacity to deal with Covid cases, there is increasing pressure on all available systems, and healthcare workers are under enormous strain.
3. The number of second time infections is increasing rapidly, with more severe symptoms and longer recovery time.
4. In the early part of the pandemic, people were “protected” by the lockdown regulations, with less movement and fewer social interactions. This is understandably a thing of the past, with the inevitable increase in interaction between people and communities. Coupled to this is a loss of fear of the virus, and the onset of “Covid fatigue” with an increasingly complacent attitude towards the basic health and safety protocols needed to lessen the spread of the virus between people.
5. As a desirable Christmas destination, the Western Cape always experiences an influx of family and visitors, while many of the local residents stream to other provinces, notably the Eastern Cape, which also has one of the highest infection rates at present. Of concern is the crossing of provincial boundaries within the next 7 days, and the return of people in January when the virus will almost certainly have spread more rapidly between families and communities.
B. CONSIDERATION OF OUR SYNOD’S COVID AWARENESS PROTOCOLS AND EFFECTIVITY
As a Leadership Team, we noted the incredible way in which Circuits, Societies, Leadership Teams and Covid Officers have diligently and respectfully implemented the recommended protocols prepared by our Synod Covid Team, in order to assist churches to resume “in person” gatherings in a way that ensures the safety of all our people, and especially the most vulnerable among us. We noted too that a number of Societies have chosen not to resume in-person worship at this time. In all cases, ministry, service, pastoral care and worship have never ceased, but have continued through many creative and imaginative means, as we have embraced a new way of being Church. Our theological basis has been our Wesleyan Rule of Life, in “doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with Jesus.”
We remain confident that churches in the Cape of Good Hope Synod have not been “super spreader” events. However, despite all the necessary precautions having been taken up to now, the documented increase in community infections and the present environment in which the “second wave” of the pandemic has overtaken us, particularly within the provincial boundaries in which we operate, inevitably many more pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people are attending worship services. While we are sure that in following the recommended protocols there will be very little spread of infections in our churches, the implication is that there will be more instances where notification, contact tracing, selfisolation, and closure for the required period of time will be necessary as a result of discovering that someone who was infected had been present in a worship service.
C. RESOLUTION ON THE CLOSURE OF CHURCHES FOR “IN PERSON” WORSHIP SERVICES
After prayer and discernment, and considered reflection on all the above-mentioned factors, I, together with the Synod Management Team, have come to the conclusion that the risk and associated anxiety are at present too high to continue to keep our churches open for worship services at this time.
I therefore call on all our Churches in the Cape of Good Hope Synod:
1. To discontinue all “in person” worship services for a 6-week period from Sun 20 December 2020 until and including Sun 24 January 2021. This includes Carol, Christmas, Watchnight and Covenant Services.
2. To engage in alternative ways of leading these “special” services as well as the “regular” Sunday Services, including using virtual platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Voice Notes, recordings, etc., “drive by” opportunities for shared Holy Communion, and other creative ways of offering ministry to our people.
3. To continue ministry in the same way as when we offered “Essential Services” particularly in our practical missional outreach of care and service. We do not encourage discontinuing these ministries, as the plight of the most vulnerable will, almost certainly, grow worse in the coming weeks. These
ministries should, however, be conducted with the strictest of protocols in place. All Church offices must ensure that these protocols are followed in all interactions with people involved in practical administration, financial matters, and ministry.
4. To continue to conduct funerals or pre-booked weddings, but that there be greater vigilance in terms of the required protocols. It is most disconcerting to note that funerals, in particular, have been identified as one of greatest “super-spreader events”, given the deep emotional and psychological factors that are at play with close human interactions often taking place spontaneously in such moments. While this is a deeply spiritual moment, we cannot afford to drop our guard during such services. Although Government Regulations allow larger numbers in terms of capacity both for indoor and outdoor funeral services, we recommend that Churches carefully consider encouraging smaller numbers, and ensure that that the protocols of no singing, catering, or gathering of people for pre-or after-conversations are strictly adhered to. Remember that what happens whilst people are inside the service is as important as what happens when they gather and disperse.
5. To ensure that no “large gathering” in any form takes place at all during this period, including such events or services such as Thanksgiving, Circuit Covenant Services, Circuit Rededication Services for members of Organizations, etc. Where needed, in conversation with myself alternative means will be found to conduct the Inductions of new ministers in Circuits.
A meeting will be called with the Synod Management, Synod Covid Crisis Team, Superintendent’s, and all Circuit Covid Officers early in January, in order to evaluate and review the situation, and to seek the best way forward.
All ministers, preachers, and leaders, in particular, are called on to support this decision, offer responsible leadership and model both in their private and public lives the simple ways in which the spread of the virus can be curtailed, that is, wearing of masks over mouth and nose at all times, frequently washing or sanitizing hands and maintaining safe distancing of 1.5 metres.
I understand that this drastic step may bring great sadness to many who were looking forward to the “normal” experiences of Advent, Christmas, and New Year. No doubt many of us will experience deep grief at the loss of such significant moments in fellowship with others, and many may have already made significant preparations in their churches. However, as one who was appointed to offer spiritual, pastoral, and administrative leadership in this Synod, and taking into account that I have responsibility for over 45 000 Methodists who claim membership in our Synod, I assure you that this decision was not taken lightly, and only after prayerful discernment. I believe courageous and decisive leadership is called for at this time and that this decision, which may not be desirable for all, is the most responsible and loving way of following Christ, who called us to love God above all and to give expression to that in loving one another in practical, self-giving ways. What we do in this “Kairos moment” will have lasting impact beyond ourselves, and I pray that Christ, whose coming we celebrate as the “Light of the world”, will strengthen us as we seek His presence and hope in the darkness of this present time. I call on you to trust me in making this decision and commit yourself with me to renewed and fervent prayer that Christ might
heal our land, our nation and all our people.
Your servant in Christ Jesus
Rev Yvette Moses
Glorious Spring greetings to you all.
Thank you so much for your on-going prayers and support. We really couldn’t have survived 6 months of lockdown without the encouragement from the body of Christ. Our Pastoral letter covers a few important topics today, so please enjoy reading it and pass on this information to anyone concerned.
Returning to Corporate Worship – I will be attending a compulsory training on Saturday (19th September) which will be offering new guidelines on the expected protocols for all Methodist Churches. As a local church we have own Covid Task Team in place and we have been doing our homework and preparations so that we can return as soon as we are given the green light. As of today (Friday) I am unable to confirm the exact date of our return due to the meeting only taking place tomorrow. I will send out updated correspondence as soon as I have any information.
The Good News is that I believe we won’t have to wait too much longer J. Perhaps one way we can start preparing ourselves for this re-introduction into corporate worship, is in the understanding that our worship experience is not going to be the same as before the Covid pandemic. Worship will be very different initially and there will be an adjustment into a new kind of “normal.”
Online Ministry – we have committed to continue our Online ministry until the end of the year, so those people who are still at risk or unsure of returning will be able to worship with us. We are grateful for the healthy use of technology during these unprecedented times.
The Methodist Church has always taken a slightly cautious approach to gathering together as we don’t want to bring our members into any risky situations. This may make some people a little frustrated, but please be reassured that we are doing this for the greater good of everyone in our church. So our return to ‘normal’ may be more gradual than stage 1 permits, but our cautious approach is the most sensible and loving approach for our entire congregation.
Small group ministry – a number of the small groups are slowly getting back to meeting, although some are still in recess. Should your bible study want to begin again, you are welcome to do so, but please confirm with either Delme or Malcolm McCormick when you plan to meet.
Our financial situation remains very tight, but thanks to your generosity we are able to meet all our expenses at the moment. Thank you once again for your support of our Church – we really couldn’t do it without your love and care. Remember that if you personally know of anyone who has need, please contact us. If we don’t know about it, then we can’t help them out.
Society Stewards for 2021 – We will be having a few changes in our leadership team at the end of this year. We are praying into this and would ask you to do the same for us. If you have a suggestion of someone who would offer value on our team of Stewards please be in contact with us.
Matrics – as you are well aware the Matric students have now begun their Prelim examinations. We have a number of children in our Church who are writing these Matric exams, including our eldest son, Declan. Please pray for all of our families at this stressful time. We could all do with a little extra prayer J
As we head out into the weekend, I leave you with a thought that will come up in the sermon on Sunday. Apparently Hudson Taylor had a picture on this wall that had 2 Hebrew words painted on it. They were the words: Ebenezer and Jehovah-Jireh. They were placed there to always remind him that ‘thus far as the Lord been with us’ (Ebenezer) and ‘God will go before us and provide what we need’ (Jehovah-Jireh). We have undoubtedly witnessed this over the past 6 months and I am confident that the Lord will lead us into the unknown future.
God bless you friends and stay strong in the Lord.
Living in Grace
Delme, Kim and the family
27th May 2020
Statement to all ministers and members of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa The Methodist Church of Southern Africa welcomes with gratitude, yet extreme caution and apprehension the announcement by the President of South Africa, of the re-opening of churches under the Level 3 Lockdown regulations as of the 1st of June 2020. The governments of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini as countries of our Connexion,
have already allowed the re-opening of churches. To use the words of the SACC Statement: “The lifting of the ban on church gatherings… is not saying all churches must open, but it means there is now the possibility to resume (gathering) under guidelines and laws”. (SACC Media Statement, 27 May 2020).
It is important for us to move cautiously on this matter and recognise the huge moral burden and responsibility this brings to leadership of the church at all levels i.e. Society, Circuit and Synod. This does not mean that we can all now rush back to church and worship as we used to. The guidelines and protocols to be fulfilled before gatherings need to be strictly followed, for each of our churches to be opened. We dare not open our churches to
contribute to the infections and death of people!
At a meeting of the Bishops the draft document of the “Guidelines, Norms and Standards for SACC Member Churches to Self-Regulate to Protect Lives at Worship” was received and we undertook to carefully contextualise these to our various local churches as we await the publication of the Government Regulations before considering our state of readiness to
reopen our buildings to worship. These will be shared with all ministers when available.
As a church committed to save lives and to contain the spread of this largely unknown destructive enemy, given our diverse contexts; we have resolved that Synods and Circuit leadership will make the decision to resume worship services, under the necessary precautions and careful discernment. The Synod Bishops will communicate with Superintendents and Ministers and each Synod will be guided by the context e.g. there are hotspot areas that dare not begin gathering etc. Should local churches under the
leadership of their Ministers and Leaders Meeting believe that they are unable to meet the precautions they must keep their church buildings closed. At the same time, we continue to encourage the usage of the various media platforms as had been initiated at the start of lockdown to continue reaching those members who may decide not to return as yet. It is important that in all our decisions we recognise the demand of our prophetic and moral
leadership not to contribute to the spread of the virus.
We support the call for a National Prayer Day in South Africa on Pentecost Sunday and encourage all Methodists in our Connexion to join in prayer for the containment of this dreadful disease, all frontline workers as well as those affected and infected, those mourning the loss of loved ones as a direct result of the disease and that a cure and vaccine would soon be found. Similarly we continue with our Thursday Noon Prayers as we seek
God’s face at this time.
We continue to urge our members to adhere to the Methodist Rule of Life of Doing Good, Doing No Harm and Staying in Love with God.
Rev Purity Malinga Rev Michel Hansrod
28 May 2020
STATEMENT ON THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE SYNOD RESPONSE TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE POSSIBLE OPENING OF CHURCHES FOR WORSHIP AND OUR CONNEXIONAL RESPONSE AS THE MCSA
Dear Members and Friends of the Cape of Good Hope Synod
I write to you in order to clarify the pastoral and practical response to the State President’s recent announcement that under the Level 3 Lockdown Regulations, religious gatherings will be allowed, provided they adhere to the strict protocols as prescribed by Government. This also takes into consideration the official statement of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa which was released yesterday evening, which reiterates our extreme caution in this matter, as we “recognise the moral burden and responsibility of leadership as all levels of our Church i.e. Society, Circuit, Synod and Connexion.”
The consultative Bishop’s meeting which met on Thursday, 27 May, in recognising the diverse nature of our contexts within our Connexional family, resolved that Synods and Circuit leadership, in prayerful discernment, will make the decision as to “if”, “when” and under what conditions, worship services may resume in our buildings. In addition, careful consideration needs to be given to the understanding of what it means to be regarded as Essential Services and the implications thereof for our clergy and greater
prophetic, compassionate and pastoral ministry at this time.
I have met with our Synod Management team in order to prayerfully consider our response as a Cape of Good Synod, especially given the fact that the Cape has been identified as a hotspot, with the spike of infection expected to rise far quicker than other Provinces. This, together with the many other
considerations that influence our loving, prophetic and pastoral response and this time, has led us to decide that the Cape of Good Hope Synod will not open our churches for services or gatherings from 1 June onwards, nor for the foreseeable future.
As a Management Team, we are committed to consult with an advisory team in order to thoroughly examine both the Government Regulations and the Guidelines, Norms and Standards of the SACC member Churches to Self-regulate to protect lives at worship, in order to engage with churches in terms of their capacity to conduct essential services, such as funerals, feeding schemes, etc. as well as any preparations that they will engage in, in order to prepare for a time when we may consider opening our churches for
worship in the months ahead. We believe that this must be taken in a responsible manner and we will resist any attempts to rush into ministry at this time. We will consult with and update Circuit Superintendents on this matter as we prayerfully and carefully move forward. We recommend that
Ministers and churches strengthen their alternative forms of worship such as virtual gatherings, teaching and preaching using the many means available to us, as well as continue the pastoral and practical care through creative ways that do not put people at any greater risk of spreading the virus.
I commend our Methodist people who have lovingly and sacrificially embraced a new reality of being the Body of Christ at this time. I, like many of you, long for many beautiful expressions of our life together as a Christian community, such as exuberant worship and dancing in God’s spirit, the loving embrace of sharing God’s peace and gathering at the Table of the Lord, fellowship and feasting together, but recognise that the time to do that is not now. As your spiritual leader and pastor, I implore you to accept this decision as our collective commitment to the adherence of our Methodist Rule of life of doing good, doing no harm, and staying in Love with God. I implore you to “pray without ceasing” as we seek the discerning wisdom of God’s Spirit, so that our action as Christ’s disciples may be guided by His grace. I continue to uphold you and our extended family in prayer.
Yours in Christ’s Service
Rev Yvette Moses
29th May 2020
Good morning friends
As the number of days in Lockdown goes deeper into the 60’s we find ourselves having to deal with new realities and challenges almost on a daily basis. These are emotionally draining days and often leave us feeling all at sea. We are grateful that in Jesus Christ we have a sure foundation and that He is the same, yesterday, today and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8).
Since Wednesday evening’s surprise announcement by the President I have been inundated with emails and calls asking what we are going to do about reopening the church. In consultation with the Presiding Bishop, our Local Bishop, the Circuit Ministers, and our own Society Stewards we almost unanimously agree that it is too premature to begin meeting in groups of 50 at this moment. There are a lot of our congregation members who are over 60, as well as a number of people (of all ages) who are at risk during this time. So, without going into all the discussions we have been having, the simple outcome is this: We will continue with our online ministry for the month of June and will take a wait and see approach during the next 4 weeks. If things change, we will communicate any changes to you timeously.
However, we also recognise that for some people, there is sense of loss and of missing being in a “church setting”, so we will open up our church building every Thursday between 11am – 1pm for a time of prayer and reflection for anyone who desires to be there. This time will be informal and will provide the space for you to prayerfully connect with Christ away from the stress of home-schooling, work and lockdown. This time will be managed with all the appropriate protocols, social distancing and the wearing of face-masks etc. This week coming, we will open the Church also on Tuesday (2 June) between 11am – 1pm as a once off.
I was encouraged to see that ministers and pastors are now considered ‘essential services’, especially in the case of emergencies. So if you are struggling and need someone to speak to, we can make the arrangements to do so. Please do this through Thomas at the Office – note that although the telephone line is down (faulty), but the email is still working. We are sadly not allowed to visit hospitals and old-age homes as yet, but will continue to care for those in need as best as we can.
Thank you for your continued financial support during this time of Covid-19. Despite the decrease in financial resources, we have still been able to meet all our expenses and also help out with those who have great needs. I have been so delighted to see how many of you have served your ‘neighbours’ and those in desperate need of food and clothes. I truly believe that although we haven’t been meeting in a church building, we have certainly still BEEN THE CHURCH. Thank you so much for being willing to allow your faith to change the lives of the most vulnerable and neglected.
Thank you for your on-going prayers for our family during this time. We have also felt the strain of the pandemic, with changes in Kim’s work situation, the boys home-schooling and all the usual ups and downs that come with being cooped up together in a home for 2 months. We ask for further prayers for Declan as he joins many of the Grade 12’s in resuming school on Monday. We know that this will add a “new normal” to an already upside down reality. We will wait to see when Nathan and Joshua can return to school – hopefully sometime soon.
Lastly, I invite us all to take part in the National Day of Prayer on Sunday 31st May 2020, which is also Pentecost Sunday. It is reassuring to know that we can come together to be of one mind and heart as we pray for our nation, our leaders and our communities. May the power of the Holy Spirit bring renewal, change and an outpouring of love into our lives.
“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” – C.S Lewis
“The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop.
They are new every morning. Lord, your loyalty is great.” – Lamentations 3:22-23
God bless you friends
Delme, Kim and the boys
P.S. If you are not receiving the weekly Whatsapp messages please contact Thomas or myself and give us your cell-phone number. Thank you.
To all Members and Friends of the Cape of Good Hope Synod
I write to you in the confidence of our risen Christ who presence brings hope and peace amidst the uncertainty and challenges of the Global COVID -19 pandemic.
This would have been the week of our gathering as a Synod, so this letter serves to update you on many practical matters as we as a Synod have attempted to navigate our way in understanding and practicing our
ministry and mission at this time, as well as dealing with governance matters for our required meetings.
As governments, public health officials and communities respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) globally, including the countries of our Connexion, the Bishops of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa had a tele-conference to discuss doing church during this period of crisis.