Pastoral Ministry in the Wake of COVID-19: A Message from UCCSA Synod of Botswana

The peace of the Lord be with you. Sisters and brothers, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, friend and saviour.

The 22nd March 2020 shall forever remain in the history our worship as the most confusing and painful Sunday. For it was preceded with the Government Extraordinary Gazette wherein the Hon. Minister of Health and Wellness declared as prohibited public gatherings of more than ten people including worship gatherings. The declaration formed part of the many precautionary measures to continuously keep Botswana free of Covid-19.

Undoubtedly, this proclamation subjected all of us to shock, anxiety, confusion and disbelief. At the same time, you were expected to communicate the same message to the flock that was broken and emotionally traumatised. In the midst of it all, your resilience is the reason the church was able to pull through. Like Jesus, you were broken but you ably washed the wounded and bound them up for the glory of Christ.

Colleagues, I have no doubt that by now we have come to comprehend the issues surrounding Covid-19; these include and are not limited to its spread patterns and precautionary measures. Dear sisters and brothers, I urge you to continuously pay attention to the protocols and guidelines as continuously shared by the dedicated team of health professionals and other support services.

While we are hoping for the best, at this time, the world is in the worst. It can be confirmed that this state of affair will get worse before it gets better. However, this is not dismissive of the power of prayer and its ability to change things. Rather, it is to encourage you to remain steadfast in pastorally strengthening the flock of God. Without raising panic and alarm, I take responsibility in beseeching you to prepare for a high possibility of a more challenging future.

Denominationally, this will put stress on our ministry and mission thereby requiring that we build strong circles of support around each other including prayer circles, counselling networks, and strengthened collegial relationships that are open to support the most needful in this our family circle. Simply put, I appeal to you to be each other's keepers. Further, I ask you to consider one another as the first lines of ministry during this time of uncertainty.

The closure of churches have imposed severe stress on the operations of the Synod just as it does already on the Regional Councils and Local Churches. Kindly note that during this period we unreservedly admit full knowledge that you may struggle to have your local churches meet their central fund obligations. 

When that happens, be as much mindful that the Synod Administration will itself suffer the effect of your struggles thereby being rendered unable to timely honour its remunerative responsibility to you. In this regard, I plead with you to the best in your reach to avoid this from happening.

This state of affair will obviously subject you to a total inconvenience which we deeply regret way in advance. To mitigate this from its early stages, the Synod Secretary will upon request, write a letter to the Bank (and/or to your creditors) and as needs may arise wherein, he will explain the delays of remuneration. More to this, I invite you to meaningfully engage on how in your views this can best be managed.

In the midst of the Covid-19 attacks, we remain called to shepherd the flock of God. Although the prevailing circumstances render it difficult to execute our pastoral and prophetic duties, let us persistently find alternative ways of doing mission and ministry.

My dear colleagues, I appeal to you that where necessary, open the Church doors for the society for usage such as isolation centres, accommodation for the homeless in the event of country lock-down and/or as need may arise. Let us seize this opportunity to raise our hands in the call to participate in national services which may include and not limited to the psychosocial and spiritual support of the distressed members of our society.

My prayers and supplications remain steadfast for you my colleagues, your families, for the Church, our fellow citizens of Botswana and of the world. I ask you that we pray for one another and without ceasing just as the Apostle Paul directed us, "Give thanks in all circumstances;for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you," I Thessalonians 5: 16 - 18. 

The Peace of God be with you during this extraordinary Lent,

Rev. Gabriel Tsuaneng
Synod Chairman