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Protecting the shepherds

Pastors in less affluent communities are vulnerable to Covid infection and need protection. Picture: Supplied

Copy supplied by The Domino Foundation

“There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. …” possibly the most celebrated opening words of any piece of South African literature. This is the landscape of Stephen Kumalo’s parish in rural Natal of 70 years ago as described in Alan Paton’s famous novel Cry The Beloved Country.

Many pastors still minister to their flocks in similarly idyllic settings, but the realities of parish life for many small congregations, both in the country and the city, are harsh. Poverty is an ever-present factor for many parishioners, and their shepherds are not exempt from living on the breadline. Covid and lockdown have greatly exacerbated the woes of these tightly-knit communities and a financial cost has battered many churches.

Pastors do not have the option to stay at home and many risk their lives to preach to their flock. Picture: Sharon Mccutcheon on Unsplash

Whereas churches in better-resourced communities are weathering the storm, those that struggle to make ends meet and effectively serve their congregants in the best of times are battling to survive now.

When lockdown brought much of the world to a halt, jobs were lost, gathering for worship was severely curtailed and tithes, tied in old handkerchiefs or secreted in worn fake leather wallets, were no longer being placed reverently in the offering basket. With a ban on church assemblies of more than 50 indoors and often with little access to the electronic banking which has been a boon to more affluent congregations, these vulnerable church groups and their leaders are on the threshold of desperation and destitution.

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Some pastors are ministering at up to eight funerals a week where they are extremely vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. With scarce funds, they are unable to buy vital PPE (personal protection equipment). The tragic result is that, almost weekly, reports come in of yet another pastor having succumbed to the virus after officiating at burial ceremonies, leaving already grieving congregations leaderless and even more vulnerable.

The plight of the pastors (who are regarded as frontline workers) has been a concern of the KZN Christian Council which has been facilitating food relief for them. Picture: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The plight of the pastors (who are regarded as frontline workers) has been a concern of the KZN Christian Council which has been facilitating food relief for them. The Council’s KZN Covid-19 Churches Response Project is again partnering with KZN Response, an informal grouping of NPOs, to co-ordinate the securing and distribution of PPE equipment to these men and women in the forefront of caring for local communities.

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Cathy Whittle, who heads up the Disaster Relief Unit of The Domino Foundation, one of the groups in KZN Response along with CityHope Disaster Relief, Zoe-Life and KZN Red Cross, explained the plan for the next three months: “The appeal has gone out for donations, monetary or in kind, for both disposable and reusable items: masks; visors; sanitiser; gloves and surgical aprons. We want to see at least 50 pastors in each district supplied with these and we are aiming at giving protection to at least 550.”

Relief Fund

A “Pastors’ Relief Fund” has been established and donations can be made to CityHope Disaster Relief, a section 18A organisation, which will administer the fund. CityHope’s Catherine Smith welcomes enquiries (admin@cityhope.co.za) and added: “Depending on the variations of the items of PPE equipment, we are looking to raise up to R120 000.”

Many pastors cannot afford PPE. Picture: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Catherine invites anyone who would like to donate to use the following bank details: The CityHope Trust, Standard Bank, Hillcrest: Code 045726, a/c No. 250793210 (Reference: Pastors’ Relief).

About The Domino Foundation:
The Domino Foundation is a registered NPO and PBO (public benefit organization) with a desire to see individuals and communities within South Africa living in dignity, justice, hope and purpose. Through their eight focused community transformation initiatives, Domino directly impacts the lives of more than 13,500 individuals daily, across KZN.

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