Among the measures ordered by government at the outbreak of the new coronavirus epidemic in Germany was the prohibition of all religious gatherings.
Even though the measure has meanwhile been relaxed, the danger of infection in worshipping houses is still present. This is made clear by the recent news of more than 100 persons who became infected with the dangerous virus after attending a church service in Frankfurt.
The African Network of Germany (TANG) has now developed a safety concept paper, containing government regulations and recommendations, on how African churches can protect their members from the coronavirus during service.
Dr Sylvie Nantcha, chairman of TANG, presented the eleven-point ‘protection concept’ (Schutzkonzept) on Thursday.
Speaking to the 28 participants from 26 cities at its 9th online crisis conference under the theme “Coronavirus-TANG clarifies”, Ms Nantcha said African churches were important to African diaspora life as they act as a home away from home, a centre of social networking and a substitute family for their members. “Being able to congregate in churches is therefore especially important for Africans. However, the corona crisis makes it difficult for Africans to live out their faith and community life,” she added.
Churches have been allowed by government to open since the beginning of May subject to stringent regulations, which differ from state to state. TANG developed the protection concept to support the African churches in their implementation of the new regulations.
TANG, a network of more than 700 African associations and individual members in Germany, would like African places of worship to be aware that the following rules apply all over the country:
- Every church must have a protection concept (Schutzkonzept) before they can be allowed to hold service
- A minimum distance of 1.5m must be maintained between worshippers. This determines the number of persons who can take part in a service. Members of a family or people who live in the same household could sit together
- Every visitor to a church service must be registered before the service takes place. If you want to go to a service, you have to register in advance.
- Every attendee of a church service must be entered into a list. This is to enable contact tracing in case a member is found to be infected
- Every church must have a hygiene concept that regulates the proceedings before, during and after the service.
- Church members should not shake hands or hug and when talking to each other should maintain social distancing
- There should be separate entrance and exit. That is, there should be one entrance and one exit.
- Ushers must be vigilant and ensure that every visitor to the church disinfect they hands before entering the church and they should ensure that members comply with social distancing rules
- Ushers should not move about collecting offers or tithes. A place should be designated where worshippers can drop their offers and tithes
- It’s recommended that church goers wear masks. In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, it’s obligatory
- The duration of a church service must not exceed 60 minutes. Eating and drinking together or socialising in groups before and after service must also be avoided.
- Loud singing by church members should be avoided. Only one member should be allowed to sing aloud to the whole church during the service and they should maintain a minimum distance of 2m to the next person
- Persons showing symptoms of the coronavirus infection should not be allowed to attend church service
- Infected persons or those in quarantine or persons who have been in contact with an infected person are not allowed to attend church service
Participants at the weekly crisis video conference reported on the efforts of churches in their communities to adjust to the corona containment measures. Some churches now hold multiple services to comply with the social distancing rule, which places a limit on the number of people who can gather within a given space. Others broadcast their service on YouTube so that members can also watch from home.
Two journalists from Benin, who participated at the virtual meeting, informed members of TANG about the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in the West African country.
Among other activities currently being carried out under TANG’s COVID-19 awareness campaign tagged “Coronavirus-TANG clarifies” is the distribution of self-made fabric masks to mentors, mentees, members and refugee homes that are participating in its “Gemeinsam für mehr Teilhabe” (Together for more Participation) project.
Femi Awoniyi with additional information by Petra Kistler