ECG Pretoria to remain closed despite church ban lifting

File Pic: Prophet Shepherd Bushiri prays for a congregant at ECG Pretoria.

Pretoria – The Enlightened Christian Gathering Church’s (ECG) Pretoria main branch will remain closed despite the President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxing lockdown regulations and allowing people to congregate at places of worship, as long as they are below the threshold of 50.

South Africa is set to move into lockdown level 3 on the 1st of June, 2020. Under lockdown levels 4 and 5, all gatherings were effectively banned, including gathering for church services.

The ECG Pretoria branch was shut down at least a week before South Africa locked down the country. At the time, the government had gazetted guidelines, initially limiting gatherings to 100 people, before lowering that to 50.

But, the Pretoria branch had long been shut down on the instruction of the church’s leader, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, whose communications team told members a the time that it was important to either create a totally safe environment where infections would not spread, or suspend services until it was totally safe to hold them.

Most churches are expected to hold limited services this coming week, and ECG branches across the country have been given the greenlight to converge and make sure they adhere to government guidelines.

But, the Pretoria branch, which is the only branch in Gauteng, will remain closed.

Speaking to ECG News Online, the church’s head of legal and compliance, Terrance Baloyi said it was impossible for the Pretoria branch to converge at this time.

“The church made this decision seeing that the numbers are impractical as the church gets up to 35,000 people every service. ECG is more concerned about safety of the people than convening. The church will continue putting the safety of the people first, hence the main branch will remain closed during Level 3.”, he said.

Baloyi added that the church had already adapted to the ‘new’ world order.

“Its not like the church has not been going on. The prophet launched a successful live online church that is accessible to every member of the church across the globe. More than 10 million people have been connecting to the online church and are able to interact with the prophet just like the physical church gathering. So people are still being fed with the word of God.” he added.

Prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s Online Church is the biggest in the world so far, with video conferencing tools confirming at least 10 million viewers every Sunday.

The Pretoria branch will remain closed until further notice.