If you have not seen your family for a long time and you are used to seeing them at least once a year, it is bad if it has been two years since you could hang out. But luckily there is something like WhatsApp and Zoom!

And so it was on Monday afternoon when members of the Reformed Family Forum could see each other on their computer screens for the first time this year during a zoom meeting. It was arranged by Nico Mostert, manager of Partners in Witness of the Dutch Reformed Church Free State Synod and of NetACT

It was great to be able to ‘see’ all the general secretaries, who represented their different churches. Our sister churches from Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and also the RCA, our Indian sister church in South Africa, have joined.

After Nico Mostert welcomed everyone, Akash Sirpal (RCA) opened with Isaiah 30 and a prayer. After that, everyone had the opportunity to briefly share how he or she was doing. After that, the group discussion began, led by Kobus Odendaal manager of Witness Ministry.

There was a particular focus on the most negative effects the current pandemic has on our church experience, like fake news, conspiracy theories and how to deal with it as church leaders. There was also a discussion of ways to revitalize our congregations.

One of the biggest challenges we face as a church is maintaining the need to be together as a family in Christ, especially through zoom church services. However, it appears that it is only possible for middle or higher income groups, due to the high data costs. However, some churches gather in very small groups and then keep their distance, wear masks and wash their hands. Other churches’ church leaders are again planning presbytery visits to encourage their people.

The absence or restriction of church services has, of course, caused a huge financial crisis, as many people do not have a culture of internet banking donations, but only contribute through their offerings on a Sunday. Something that has decreased a lot in the current situation.

With regard to the fake news and conspiracy theories, it has been emphasized that it depends on the trust in who and what the people believe. It is therefore very important that church leaders, for example, share photos of their vaccinations on social media – in this way it creates trust with people who are still skeptical.

To help with this, Berlise Louwrens of CLF provided the group with a lot of useful information:

She also shared the following with us to facilitate ministries:

Amidst the confusing messages that fly around, the church has a task to convey a message of hope in the way we reach out to one another and in the way we provide support to the marginalized people in our communities. May God’s presence be experienced through our acts of hope.

Something like the vaccine is a form of hope, to help others in need is a form of hope. We are all in the same storm, only in different boats; help each other where needed. Turn away from yourself and see where you can bring relief.

The meeting ended with a prayer by Tebatso Menyatso of the DRCB, our sister church in Botswana.