Discipleship and Church Life in the Time of COVID-19: Responses from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines
By Mighty Rasing
All over the world, governments have declared lockdowns or stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, worship services and religious meetings are canceled. United Methodists cannot meet on Sundays and must find alternative ways to worship and connect with each other for mutual encouragement and spiritual growth.
Mighty Rasing recently connected with several leaders from the Central Conferences to ask about the ways that they are dealing with the impact of this pandemic.
Churches in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines are using various technologies, primarily WhatsApp and Facebook, to connect with United Methodists and encourage them during this time. However, challenges remain for people living in rural areas with limited connectivity.
In the video below, Rasing spoke with Rev. Alan Masima Gurupira from Zimbabwe, Rev. Ande Emmanuel from Nigeria, and Mr. Phileas Jusu from Sierra Leone. They talked about how pastors and congregations are using online technologies to stay connected.
WhatsApp and Facebook are widely used in Africa. United Methodist pastors write and record their messages and then share those with their members. WhatsApp group chats are very popular. However, it is a big challenge to connect with members who live in rural areas with limited connectivity.
In Zimbabwe, Rev. Gurupira shared how the members are using EcoCash, a popular mobile (SMS) payments system, to send money and support the church. They are also reaching out beyond the membership of the UMC, which is an opportunity presented by technology.
In Sierra Leone, Bishop John Yambasu’s message was aired on Easter Sunday on a TV station with wide coverage throughout the country.
Rev. Anne Detjen, Pastor of Friedenskirche (Peace Church) in Hamburg, Germany, shares how she is using a combination of technology and tactile approaches to stay connected with her congregation.
She is using WhatsApp and emails to send liturgy and worship resources. They also sent letters (snail mail) to their members to encourage them. They even included sunflower seeds, which they hope the members would plant and bring to church in the Harvest Sunday in the Fall of 2020.
She didn’t stream her sermons because a worship service of the UMC in Germany is already airing on TV. As a way to bless passersby, her church also hung postcards with Bible verses on a clothesline near the church for people to take.
Earlie Pasion-Bautista is the Publishing Coordinator of Discipleship Resources Philippines. She stays in the province of Isabela, which is about 330 kilometers north of Manila.
They use Facebook Messenger to connect with members of the congregation. Families and clans of United Methodists gather together for family worship time. They can download worship resources on Facebook, which serves as their guide. Some pastors and certified lay speakers visit families in order to encourage them and participate in worship.
Connectivity is a challenge among members who live in the rural areas. They use SMS and phone calls to connect with pastors and other members of the church.
Global Conversations on Discipleship Podcast Coming Soon!
The Global Conversations on Discipleship Podcast is where Mighty Rasing chats with ministry leaders in the Central Conferences. They talk about ministry, evangelism, community engagement, and discipleship in their setting. Watch out for the first episode on Thursday, May 21, 2020.
Mighty Rasing is the Director of Central Conference Relationships at Discipleship Ministries.