Divine services despite coronavirus crisis (update)

If the faithful cannot go to church, the church will come to the faithful. This is how the New Apostolic Church is looking after its members in the current crisis. Across the globe and from place to place the possibilities are quite different.

Within a few days, the numbers of brothers and sisters whose local church life has been suspended until further notice has multiplied: by Monday this week, only the District Churches in Europe and Canada had suspended all activities in their church buildings. By Friday, however, South-East Asia, South America, the USA, Niger, Western Pacific and the Democratic Republic of the Congo South-East had been added.

The main reason for this are mostly government bans on large assemblies, but also voluntary precautionary measures. The aim everywhere is to reduce the number of social contacts in order to protect the people—distancing rules. The purpose is to slow the spread of the pandemic and prevent an overburdening of our health care systems.

Online and airing on TV

The District Apostles do not want to leave the faithful without spiritual support particularly in this crisis. They are therefore using the opportunities afforded by digital technology and are shifting divine services and pastoral care on the Internet.

The four German District Churches have set up their own YouTube channels in order to expand their resources for divine service transmission. South America has its own streaming portal. And Southern Africa can use its own television channel, NACTV, which also airs Wednesday evening services.

Ahead of everyone else are the North Americans, who already have quite a bit of experience in live streaming of divine services. Canada and the USA do not only broadcast on occasion, but offer a large number of recordings available for viewing throughout the week.

DR Congo South-East reactivates all retirees

Unfortunately, the technical infrastructure for live streaming is not available everywhere. The Apostles in South-East Asia, for example, will be recording their sermons and making them available to the brothers and sisters via a download link. Those members who do not have access to the Internet will receive pastoral care letters.

An entirely different approach is being taken by the District Church Democratic Republic Congo South-East. The district does have its own YouTube channel, but the vast majority of the 1.8 million members either do not have any access or only limited access to the Internet.

As far as legal provisions allow, ministers will be going from house to house, conducting a short service, and celebrating Holy Communion. Because the congregations are very large, the ministers will likely be busy throughout the week, District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi says. In order to help the active ministers, he has reactivated all retired ministers.

Live streams in many languages

Globally this means that divine services will be available in many languages (some with interpretations into additional languages). The following District Churches will be streaming divine services live:

Update: Western Pacific, Niger, Southeast Asia. - Correction: Contrary to a previous version of this report, services in the congregations of the District Church of Africa South are not suspended, but limited to 100 participants.

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Andreas Rother
Divine service, Congregational life