Around the country, churches are being called on to open their doors as Care Centres to the vulnerable, to those who are unable to self-isolate due to high-density living areas, to healthcare workers who need rest between shifts somewhere near their workplace, and as community testing and collection & distribution sites. With the need for physical distancing being at the core of the current lockdown, what is being envisioned is multiple, small, well-equipped, well-prepared sites offering hospitality to between 10 – 20 people at most – with priority being given to the most vulnerable.
The Warehouse has prepared a comprehensive toolkit on how to use your church building during this crisis, that will be circulated nationally.
We know that Church leaders and leaders in Churches in Cape Town will receive this call with mixed, nuanced and diverse responses.
Some of us will remember with enormous gratitude to God and each other, the radical hospitality that was shown by hundreds of churches across the country in 2008 when our African Foreign National siblings sought refuge from xenophobic violence and discrimination in South Africa. Many churches hosted many people for many months. It was an unprecedented movement of collective hospitality with our buildings and resources. Over the years we have heard how many congregations were permanently altered in positive ways as church communities during this time. Was it tough? For sure. Was it worth it? We think so. We think that that season truly defined us as the church in South Africa in a new way. Before and since then we, of course, continue to strive for much more sustainable solutions to inequality, injustice and vulnerability, but we do need to remember that time and the lessons we learnt.
Some of us will cast our minds to more recent events, specifically the challenges experienced by Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town (CMM). We hope that you’ve had the immense privilege of reading their weekly reflections on what has been and continues to be a very hard road (https://cmm.org.za/). When reading their theologically rich, courageous, open, honest, raw, compassionate and clear communications, and not just the media reporting of the situation, it is clear to see that the situation is a particularly complex one. It involved pre-existing, organised parties who endangered the safety of all concerned with their modus operandi.
Most of us know that as a society and a Church, the last 12 years, the last few months and the last 3 weeks have changed us in such ways that we cannot make direct comparisons to either of these situations. Some churches will already be in relationship with people they are hoping to care for, some will be facing scarce resources within their congregations and will struggle to care for more people, and some will be feeling paralysed by the nature of this crisis and the lockdown even if they have more resources to mobilise. From the outset, we would encourage individual churches to think through these different scenarios and formations and commit only to what they know they can reasonably offer.
Above all, we surely must remember in these moments who we are, what we are capable of and who God has created us to be. It is our sincere prayer that we, as the nation-wide church, will grasp the opportunity in this moment to be courageous, care-filled, compassionate neighbours to our city.
While we are locked down, let us not lock others out.
Who could be using the spaces that we currently are unable to use?
The Warehouse is ready to help you think through everything that would be needed to offer yourselves as a site. We are also happy to talk through concerns with your church leadership as they take time to discern this opportunity.
We have heard it said in the past few weeks that perhaps this is a moment of turning. A time to consider who we are as a society and more specifically what it means to be the Church when we can’t be at the church as we have been in the past.
We are here to assist you in considering your options throughout the lockdown and into the future, to assist the vulnerable in our communities.