With churches having shut down following the ban on social gatherings, clerics have emerged among the vulnerable and worst-affected groups.
Without offerings flowing into church coffers, many clerics and church workers are unable to earn their salaries.
APPEAL FOR FUNDS
In Siaya County, the Anglican Church, Bondo diocese has sent all its 60 staff, among them parish priests, on unpaid leave until the pandemic passes, Diocesan Bishop Prof David Kodia told the Nation.
On Friday, the diocese launched an appeal seeking to raise funds to bail out the priests.
“Our full-time clergy have been hit hard given that our main income comes from offerings,” Prof Kodia said while unveiling the diocesan relief fund at St Michael and All Angels Cathedral in Bondo.
In Kisii County, Rev Fr Godfrey Ototo of Kisii Cathedral parish has appealed to the congregation to donate foodstuff and other essential items. The faithfuls have organised themselves into groups to collect food donations.
Pastor Isaboke Nyang’au of Satellite Baptist Church in Kisii has appealed to the government to consider reopening churches. He said that they are entirely dependent on offerings from church members for their upkeep.
He further said that the churches are ready to adhere to any requirements that would be put in place such as maintaining social distancing by limiting the number of worshipers.
In Kakamega, the Catholic Diocese of Kakamega has sent an internal memo to its staff including teachers to be patient until the financial position improves before they can be paid.
Bishop Joseph Obanyi said the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted key operations in the church crippling revenue sources.
“We have talked to our staff to be patient during these difficult times since were are not generating any revenue to pay salaries and sustain other operations,” said Bishop Obanyi.
Teachers in schools run by the church, including the nursing school at the St Elizabeth Mission Hospital in Mukumu, have been badly affected.
The nursing school was closed down forcing the management to send teachers on leave until the situation is back to normal.
Hospitals run by the church have been affected in the wake of the coronavirus infections in the country.
“At the church offices, we have only been left with two workers who are reporting on duty in shifts in line with the Ministry of Education guidelines on social distancing. We have asked all the other staff to stay home until the situation has improved,” said Bishop Obanyi.
In Vihiga, more than 500 staff attached to the Pentecostal churches in the county have been sent home on unpaid leave.
Kenya National Congress of Pentecostal Churches county chairman Rev Isaac Wawire said salaries are drawn from offerings which were not being collected.
“We get their pay from the gatherings in churches. With no services on, their livelihood is affected,” said Rev Wawire, who is also the group’s national vice chairman. In Kisumu County, ACK Maseno South Bishop Charles Ong’injo said the ban on services had affected church operations.
He said that even though the church has continued to observe its ministry obligations through social media outreaches and other pastoral duties, it is facing a challenge in paying its workers.
The bishop said calls by a section of the clergy to reopen churches could have devastating effects on the population.
“Even if the churches were to be opened, they would be forced to rework their seating arrangements and stagger services,” he said. At St. Joseph Milimani Catholic Church, the faithfuls are collecting money to help pay staff salaries, utility bills and insurance.
“The church has six staff members including a sacristan, catechists, parish secretary, kitchen manager and a security guard. Except for those offering essential services, the rest were forced to go on leave,” said a church worker.
The Vicar General of Kisumu Archdiocese Fr Moses Omollo said they have been forced to send workers such as drivers and catechists on unpaid leave.
“We priests are affected. We can’t interact with the congregation and at the same time many within the congregation feel that the closure of the churches is scandalous,” said Fr Omollo.
He went on: “Of course we are affected economically, there were people who were dependent on us but now it has become hard.”
The case is the same in Homa Bay where Voice of Salvation and Healing International (Vosh) Church sent some of their staff members including care takers, secretaries and office messengers on temporary leave to cut down on salary expenses.
Homa Bay County Vosh Bishop Elijah Otieno Kwanya told the Nation that the church has only allowed security guards to report to work.
“Other staff members are non-essential for now because no church services are going on. They have been asked to stay at home,” the clergy said.
Closure of churches has also affected the pastor’s work. Mr Kwanya who is also the chairman of Homa Bay County Pentecostal Bishops and Pastors Unity which brings together different churches said clergymen have been asked to volunteer and preach to the congregation digitally.
“Pastors are paid salaries using offering. Closure of churches affects how they are being paid. We have, however, appealed to them to continue with their services because it is a calling,” he said.
The church has appealed to the government to allow Kenyans to congregate and worship.
Mr Kwanya said his church is ready to maintain social distance. He said the church will also ensure sitting arrangements that accommodate social distancing.