High Data Charges Hinder Online Church Services

Very few Zimbabweans have embraced online worship due to reasons which include the high cost of data, no smartphones and lack of interest.

The government banned gatherings in March last year and again in June this year, to tighten COVID-19 induced lockdown regulations, pushing churches to conduct virtual services.

However, high data tariffs and low disposable income have made it hard for the majority of believers to embrace the new way of worship, with some people even losing their faith.

READ MORE: Police Warn Churches Against Ignoring COVID-19 Guidelines

Molvin Dube, a Gwanda resident, told Chronicle he occasionally downloads sermons that were being sent on WhatsApp. Dube said:

At our church, we now mainly use WhatsApp for worshipping. Our pastors send videos and audios of their sermons for us to listen to.

This is really helpful as it’s better than missing out on church completely during the lockdown period.

The challenge I face is with downloading all the sermons because data is too expensive. I occasionally download the sermons but not at all times.

Virtual services are quite different from physical worship as there are a lot of distractions.

When I’m in church I can switch off my phone but for virtual services, it has to remain on and at times calls and messages will be coming in which ends up being a distraction.

That environment of leaving your house and going to church is really ideal for worship.

Meanwhile, Lilian Nkomo from Bulawayo told the publication that she has never listened to virtual sermons because data is expensive.

Nkomo said she has also never liked the concept of worshipping virtually and she ignores sermons that are by her pastors on WhatsApp. She said:

Our pastor sends long audios of his sermons and I don’t have the data to download them. So each time he sends them I just ignore them.

Even during the lockdown which we had last year I never even listened to a single sermon. This concept of worshipping virtually is just foreign to me. I don’t think I can get accustomed to it.

Even if I’m given data I think I will really struggle to listen and follow the sermons from start to end. This lockdown is really disturbing my spirituality.

Last year it took me some time to go back to church after they were re-opened. Sitting at home every Sunday and not going to church is slowly becoming usual for me.

A majority of churches have resorted to opening groups for services and using the cheaper WhatsApp platform to conduct their virtual services.

Church leaders record their sermons on their days of worship and share them with congregants on WhatsApp. Others also use Facebook and Zoom.

More: Chronicle

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