Without Sunday offerings, many churches in the country are feeling the financial strain from being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
New Era engaged various church leaders who shared different views regarding the impact of finances on their churches since they are not receiving, tithes, and money for baptism, marital counselling and confirmation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, churches ceased conducting services around 15 March to avoid congregants gathering in large crowds. African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Namibia Reverend Andreas Biwa said they are hard hit. Biwa, who is administrative assistant of the bishop for the Namibia annual conference, said they are responsible for the wellbeing of staff, including gardeners, while the church has a commitment to honour mortgages and municipal services.
Biwa also said after closure of the church, the impact was seen as those who benefitted from the soup kitchen still showed up looking for food, as they are not taken care of by government.
In addition, Bishop for the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church Namibia (Reach-Na) Lukas Kaluwapa Katenda stated the impact is obvious.
He said they have full time ministers who depend on the members of the congregation for their material and temporal survival and it is obvious that they are affected because their dealings are through the offering of people visiting the church office.
Katenda added the tragedy here is that many of the denominations are made to understand that most churches have huge properties, huge buildings, water bills, electricity, pastors and secretaries who need to be paid.
“You can have a modest property for your regular worship instead of a big building, because when a situation like this comes, the property will be a burden as there is no constant income to upkeep payments and it will accumulate debts at the end of the day,” he stated.
Pastor Fred Joseph of the Khomasdal-based Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) River of Life said the impact would definitely start showing this month end. Joseph said most churches are depended on the weekly offerings to pay for staff and church facilities.
“We have large facilities. We have an office block, youth centre, Sunday school and the church. We have water, electricity, maintenance and staff to pay,” said Joseph. He said the churches supported old-age homes, children in need, pensioners on a monthly basis but can not do that if there is no income.
Pastor David du Plessis from Gospel Mission church said they have faithful members who deposit their contribution in the church’s bank account while others bring it to his house.
“It has not really affected us in a way that we in a crisis financially,” he mentioned.
Bishop Luke Pato of the Anglican Diocese of Namibia said the time is too short to tell how church finances have been impacted since the suspension of Sunday service as part of measures imposed to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
Pato told New Era that maybe after a month, they will be able to tell the effects but for now – there is nothing. “We have had no record of inability to pay or meet our monthly expenses yet. It is less than 14 days, maybe if you ask after 30 days you will get a clear and direct answer. We don’t have expense to pay on daily or weekly basis. There is nothing showing at the moment,” he responded.
When asked about pastors asking for offerings from congregants during the lockdown, Pato said it is also very short for these pastors to begin to make such demands of that sort.