Democratic Republic of the Congo
May glory be given to the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his good deeds. By the grace of God, in Congo the pandemic was not as cruel as it was under other skies. Aside from the hygiene lessons given regularly and generally by the political/ administrative and health authorities to the population, there was no direct long-term link between the pandemic and worship.
Given the severity of health measures, no gatherings were possible. Nevertheless, Christians were invited to gather in their respective homes and some leaders visited the faithful and prayed with them.
During the pandemic we were asked to shorten worship times in order to avoid contamination and this practice continues to the present.
We were in the habit of embracing visitors during the time of welcome, but this practice was eliminated with the arrival of the pandemic. We no longer embrace visitors. At the end of every worship service, we had the custom of shaking hands between brothers and sisters, but this no longer happens. These are not improvements per se, but simply things that are different.
As a result of the health measures enacted by the government, notably the closing of churches and the prohibition against gathering, contact among children was nonexistent. This greatly impacted relationships among the faithful and significantly blunted fellowship. (It is good to clarify that this situation only lasted some five to six months.)
It was this aspect of no gatherings of the children of God with its corollaries such as the absence of spiritual and material sharing as well as the impossibility of giving offerings to God that we missed the most during the pandemic.
All of the activities of members having been turned upside down, the only thing that was possible for the faithful was intercession. Indeed, the children of God who got into the habit of praying in their families prayed for others and for an end to the pandemic. When the restrictive measures were lifted, all of the activities of the church resumed normally.
It is important to note that even though the pandemic was dangerous and severe, our church conference was not affected or shaken to the point of negatively impacting the organization of worship. We thank MWC for having given our church conferences, through AIMM, the means to inform the members concerning COVID-19 and attitudes to adopt in order to avoid it.
During our times of praise, the pandemic helped us better understand our vulnerability as humans and always trust in God. And even though we prayed for others before the pandemic, we became more conscious of the need to pray for the healing of others with the arrival of the pandemic.
The grace and peace of the Lord be with you.
— Pasteur Jean Félix Cimbalanga, president of the Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (CEM). Felo Gracia, General Council member (GC) representing Communauté des Eglises Frères Mennonite du Congo (the Mennonite Brethren church of Congo). Both leaders contributed insights to this article.