COVID-19: Being church in times of Coronavirus

17 Jul 2020
Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa in his office in Addis Ababa. Photo: EECMY

Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa in his office in Addis Ababa. Photo: EECMY

Voices from the Communion: A message from the President of the Lutheran church in Ethiopia

(LWI) - Facing rising numbers of daily Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa encourages the communion to continue praying for the whole church in these unprecedented times.

How has the church been affected by COVID-19 in your context?

Here in Ethiopia we are preparing ourselves for months ahead with continued restrictions and limited activities. We hear that the numbers of infected are increasing in South Africa and that the general prediction is that the epicenter will move from the Americas to Africa. The health system and financial resources are limited, here.

All of our church buildings and properties have been closed for three months and members and clergy are suffering due to the inability to gather for prayer and worship. The church’s financial situation is dire due to financial hardships our members are experiencing from a loss of income, thereby reducing the number of tithes and gifts coming to the church.


The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa delivers a message through the church’s television broadcasting station. Photo: EECMY

How has the church compensated for the lack of in-person worship and prayer?

Worship and prayer have moved into the homes with the family. Unfamiliar and new technologies are used to bring God’s Word into the homes with preaching, worship, Bible study and prayer.

The Mekane Yesus TV channel broadcasts worship services and social media, messaging apps and video conferencing calls are used to gather people virtually. We are meeting in new ways and learning to overcome the challenges of social distancing, but we also face the difficulties of reaching people living in the rural areas, the poor who have no access to television or internet. There are many who still live without electricity.

What are the restrictions placed on the church by the Ministry of Health?

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Ethiopia is below 9,000 and less than 200 deaths. With this relatively slow increase in cases, we are allowed to reopen the church with strict restrictions of 50 people maximum, hand washing, face masks and two meters apart. It is our hope that being able to gather for Sunday service will strengthen our members spiritually and socially and resolve some of the financial challenges that our congregations are facing.

The Coronavirus comes at a time of political challenges already present in the country. What is the current political climate?

The current political unrest has resulted in an internet shutdown for the entire country. Since the first of July, we have not had access to email or other internet services. This makes our communication with members at home very difficult as well as communication with partners.

The economic consequences of the pandemic due to the preventative restrictions come amid postponed national elections, and conflict with Egypt concerning the controversial Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

What is your prayer?

To strive for peace and unity and support for those working toward reconciliation. It is our prayer that God will be merciful to Africa and Ethiopia and all the nations. We hope that the communion will stand with us in prayer. We need God’s grace and mercy for times like these. That we all find the wisdom, love and strength to continue sharing the Good News in the midst of this crisis.

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ECMY has been a Lutheran World Federation member church since 1963 with 10.3 million members and 9,000 congregations across Ethiopia’s ten regions and two chartered cities.

Voices from the Communion

The Lutheran World Federation is a global body that shares the work and love of Christ in the world. In this series, we profile church leaders and staff as they discuss topical issues and set out ideas for building peace and justice in the world, ensuring the churches and communion grow in witness and strength.

Voices from the Communion Series