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Why churches must devise novel methods to survive : The Standard

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Reverend Elijah Mwangi of Deliverance Church Life Celebration Centre, Nakuru during Sunday service streamed online. [Joseph, Standard]
The coronavirus outbreak, just like it has distrusted every facet of human life, has forced religious organisations to rethink ways of holding worship services, which typically involved people gathering in a confined space.

Today, just like it has been the tradition for the last one month, pews will be empty. This means empty coffers, salary cuts and consequently job losses. This is the reality churches are facing. 
In place of the hums of melodic hymns and the din of musical instruments, the places of worship will be empty and deserted, courtesy of a government order to close churches to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Faced with these unprecedented challenges, and without clear cut-out timelines on when normalcy will return, churches must adopt new and innovative ways to remain afloat.
SEE ALSO: Church takes extra caution to prevent spread of Covid-19ACK Bondo Diocese’s bishop David Kodia says they had been forced to device other measures to survive.
Bishop Kodia told The Sunday Standard the church had been dependent on funds from Christians, and with the closure of churches, there was no cash-flow.
“This is a wake-up call for the churches to venture into entrepreneurial activities to support the clergy,” said Kodia.
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Isaac Mwangi, the secretary general of National Alliance of Registered Churches of Kenya, an association of the founders of evangelical churches, estimates that the income from some of the churches has fallen by as much as 90 per cent. 
“We are only just getting by,” said Mwangi, adding: “In my church we have only had three tithers in the two months since we were ordered to close our doors. All our members are crying because most of them were paying bills and had people that we had employed in the church.” 
SEE ALSO: Government’s subtle warning to defiant churchesThe situation is mirrored across the country.
While a handful of churches are trying to migrate their followers online, the jury is out on whether the fraction of faithful will provide the churches the lifeline amidst financial distress. As other churches are considering laying off parish staff, others have effected salary cuts and gone on aggressive drives to scrounge up whatever their faithful are willing to offer.
Bishop David Oginde of Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) says the church has been forced to make adjustments.
“The weekly givings have reduced significantly, almost by up to 50 per cent. But the situation changes as time goes. We have had to suspend our programmes and the staff is taking a salary cut,” he said.
The Catholic Church has also been affected, with some of its leaders claiming they have gone broke because of missing church services.
SEE ALSO: Churches go online after State directive on social distancingFor some, the situation has been worsened by the decision by their leaders to compel them to take salary cuts.
The clergy and church management in parishes across the vast catholic archdioceses of Kisumu are grappling with sustaining operations without contributions during daily and Sunday masses.
According to the archdiocese finance administrator Fr Felix Atinda, in a view to sustain operations, allowances for priests have been cut and money redirected to more urgent needs.
Early this month, Philip Anyolo painted a gloomy picture for the clergymen and advised them to brace for tough times.
“We have food that is sustaining the clergy, but soon families will turn to the church to provide for them. There are tough times ahead,” Archbishop Anyolo said then.
SEE ALSO: Defiant churches are the weak link in State’s war against virus spreadHe said other than coronavirus, floods had continued to wreak, and directly affect the church. He gave an example of Ahero parish, which was submerged  last week.
“The church is doing all it can to find solutions to the problems and we encourage Christians to support the church at this hour of need,” Anyolo said.
Some churches are even knocking on the doors of their congregants asking for donations. Others are encouraging their faithful to use M-Pesa, an option that has always been available, but is not widely used, to tithe and give their offering. 
For instance, the Presbyterian Church (PCEA) is broadcasting messages to their congregants encouraging them to keep supporting the church through the Covid-19 pandemic. 
Like clockwork, every Saturday at 4pm, for the past three weeks, the PCEA church sends out messages to the parishioners reminding them to tithe to keep the church afloat. 
Nyeri’s Bishop Paul Wanjohi of Newlife Church said his church was getting by using commitments from some of the church’s core faithful.
The effect on the church is not only borne from the closure of the churches but from the effect of the coronavirus on the greater economy.
Nyanza’s chairman of Inter-denominational Church and State Corporation on Development Ogonyo Ngede admitted that some of the clergy were struggling to even pay rent. 
Archbishop Ngede said they were forced to rely on donations from a few well-wishers sending money through their pay bill. 
Bishop Charles Asilutwa of ACK Maseno North said the church services were broadcast on You Tube and Facebook every Sunday.
Bishop Asilutwa said while the situation was worse for the smaller churches that relied entirely on offering from their parishioners, even bigger churches were feeling the pinch.
“It’s quite difficult to operate, but the members hold home services that do not exceed 10 people and then take offerings and tithes, which are paid through the church’s pay bill number or official church mobile phone number and then banked. The pastor intercedes for the flock from the church alter,” said Rev Bernard Kutwa of King Jesus faith Church, Kanduyi. 
Apostle James Mabwa of Victory Gospel Apostolic Church-Kakamega, said even before the government ordered for the closure of churches, they were already observing the measures that were put in place as a way of curbing the spread of the virus.
At Metro International Church, Nakuru, believers are also channeling tithes and thanksgiving through a pay bill number.
The reverend Mike Brawan said failure to congregate was a major problem to most churches that depended on physical congregation despite being expected to pay bills.
He said some members were faithful givers offering tithe and thanksgiving to respond to needs of those who could not give. Like other churches, Metro says most of its finances goes towards supporting those socially and economically vulnerable.
The cleric says different initiatives run by the church, including education, health and support of destitute, have been halted due to the pandemic.
Bishop David Macharia, the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya deputy general secretary, said the church directed senior pastors to forfeit a percentage of their salaries in support of the needy.
Archbishop Moses Aduol of Kisumu’s Legio Maria said they had about 300 widows and orphans who solely depended on the church’s offerings.
[Report by Allan Mungai,  Nathan Ochunge, Mercy Kahenda, Anne Atieno, Mactilda Mbenywe, Edwin Nyarangi, Isaiah Gwengi, James Omoro and Caleb Kingwara]

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