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Celebrating New Year while observing Covid-19 SOPs

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By Denis Nsubuga

In one of his speeches, motivational speaker and author Jonathan Huie once said: “Celebrate endings for they precede new beginnings.”  Huie’s quote speaks volumes on the vibe that characterises the New Year’s eve in Uganda and the rest of the world.

The New Year is celebrated in hope and pomp. Festivities usually start in the afternoon of the eve.

At midnight as the world clock crosses to the New Year, some people humble themselves as they pray and worship God, while others blast away in cheerfulness.

Crossover prayer nights are always at peak. Stadiums like Namboole, Kololo, Nakivubo and almost all churches are packed to the brim, without forgetting fireworks exploding from different entertainment centres.   The night is known to gather the biggest numbers of Christians in different places.

Following the guidelines and measures set by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus, there is less visible anticipation of the New Year like previous years.

Previously, by now, there would be adverts for overnights and concerts across different media platforms.

Immaculate Nakalema alias Maama Gloria, a resident of Mutungo, a suburb of Kampala says she usually looks forward to the New Year’s eve celebrations.

She says: “Of course, the New Year should find me praying to God so that He blesses me in it”.  She adds that the New Year’s eve night is special, echoing the festivities around the country during that moment.

Nakalema sometimes attends the crossover nights at Namboole, organised by Pr Samuel Kakande, and she calls it “a nice feeling” entering the New Year in the presence of God. But perhaps this year, with the current 9:00pm curfew, she says she might miss that “nice feeling.”

Pr Ben Odongo, a student of Master’s degree in Divinity at Uganda Christian University, says the current situation shows that Christians should be open to adjustments.

He says, “When lockdown happened, we had to adjust. It reminded us that God is not the physical building, you can find Him wherever you are. And that you seek Him as an individual”.

Odongo says, whereas people will not be in the overnights praying as they enter the New Year, there is an opportunity to have a personal, intimate time with God.

 “Build more on the relationship with God, not with the church or your pastor,” he says, adding that this New Year is not different.

“It is a normal day like other days. Like a clock or watch, it is all man-made. Breakthrough is not based on a clock or numbers like 2021,” he says.

In emphasis, Odongo refers to Revelation 3:8 (KJV): “Now I have set before you a wide-open door that none can shut.”

He asks: “Therefore, how does a man determine when God’s blessings occur?” 

He further quotes: “Knock and the door will be opened” (Mathew 7:7).

Odongo says these Bible verses should give someone confidence, that whenever and wherever they seek God from, He hears them and we answer their prayers, whether in their houses or Church.

He, therefore, says to avoid risking one’s life to the jaws of the deadly Covid-19, they should avoid gatherings as guided by the authorities.

He says churches can use the trends they have been using during lockdown, to ensure the Gospel reaches their congregants on New Year’s night.

During lockdown, preachers had masses and services with no physical audience. Their congregations followed through on televion screens at home.

Television and radio stations also have previously broadcasted live proceedings of various places of worship during New Year’s eve night.

New Year’s Day celebrations this year are expected to be toned-down in many parts of the world, as the world still grapples with the pandemic.

What others say

Bettina Nasige Awori, businesswoman:

I have been listening to Church services on the radio. It has become more convenient than going to the physical gathering. So since there is even the risk of catching Covid-19, I will stay at home and follow the Phaneroo service on Facebook. That’s how I am going to pray this time.

Collins Atwijukire, student:

I usually go to a party and ensure the last hour finds me in Church to pray into the New Year. But there is a curfew this time; so, I might be with friends at home, and have some enjoyments and ensure we enter the year peacefully. Of course, you have to thank God for the year, and you pray He blesses the new one. So I shall pray wherever I will be.   

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