JOHANNESBURG – When South Africa began reducing its coronavirus lockdown in May, it permitted religious worshippers to collect in groups of approximately 50, however preserved a restriction on individuals assembling to consume alcohol.
That’s an issue for the “Gabola” church– the name suggests ‘drinking’ in the regional Tswana language– for whom a tipple is an integral part of their religious praise.
Established just two years earlier, the church tried to hold its typical meetings in shebeens to praise God while downing scotch, however they soon got apprehended, its leader and self-styled ‘pope’ Tsietsi Makiti told Reuters.
” They can arrest us till Jesus returns,” stated Makiti, using a bishop’s mitre with a mini bottle of spirits hanging off it.
But he added they had actually been moving services from place to put to avoid a confrontation with the authorities.
On Sunday, worshippers met in a rubbish-strewn field in Evaton, south of Johannesburg. As the service began, the ‘clergy’ blessed some beer bottles in prayer.
” At Gabola church you (bring) … the liquor of your choice … and the pastor will bless the alcohol so that it will not be harmful to your body,” Makiti said.
Using streaming black bathrobes and coloured headscarfs, Makiti and 5 ‘clergymen’– none are ordained– sat prior to a table scattered with empty bottles of alcohol.
Makiti’s sermon included such proclamations as: “We are a church that will remake the world.”
” Individuals call me an alcoholic,” stated one worshipper, Nthabiseng Kotope, who stated she signed up with the church in March.
” I concur with them. I do God’s work while drinking.”
Apart from the ban on alcohol, the congregants observe all other coronavirus guidelines, consisting of the limit of 50 people, the spacing out of chairs and use of hand sanitisers.
While some Protestant sects teach that alcohol is sinful and to be prevented, most traditional Christian churches are not opposed to moderate drinking, citing such Scriptural stories as Jesus turning water into white wine at a wedding banquet.