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 By Isaac Wandubile

On Thursday, Pastor Aloysius Bugingo (for the first time since March) drove to his Canaan Land which is the headquarters of his House of Prayer Ministries International Church (HPMI) along Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road near Makerere University. He was joined by members of the Covid19 taskforce for Kawempe Division under whose geographical jurisdiction his Canaan Land is located. The team was also joined by a high-powered police delegation from the Wandegeya territorial Police Division. There were also security operatives from ISO and the RDC’s office.

Bugingo (who didn’t immediately reopen his very large church because he was unable to determine who to let in and who to lock out to comply with the maximum of 70 worshippers as was decreed by the President) wanted to show the medical, government and security leaders the mitigation measures he has put in place to accommodate more worshippers without exposing any of them to any danger or risk of catching the very unforgiving Coronavirus. So, on arrival, the team had an inspection tour of the entire 8 acres of land on which the Canaan worship arena sits.

They were excited to find Bugingo had exceedingly complied with everything required to be in place for God’s people to be able to safely congregate to worship and pray for both Sunday and lunch hour fellowships. The maverick preacher from Masaka showed the team the well-spaced sitting arrangement of the hundreds of plastic chairs spread across the 8 acres space. This was the case in both the tents and open spaces. They also saw hand washing and disinfecting facilities the very combative man of God has appropriately put in place to ensure worshipper can safely come for prayers at Canaan.

This was the first time an emotionally enchanted Bugingo was returning to Canaan Land since March when Gen Museveni first locked down the country and asking worshipers to stay away from churches which are like second home for many people. Bugingo also illustrated to the taskforce members the hand-washing and body sanitizing facilities his teams had put in place to ensure whoever steps at Canaan for praise and worship sessions will be adequately disinfected to diminish all worshipers’ susceptibility to Coronavirus.

After the tour, during which the taskforce members were showed the extent to which the buildings like the toilets and the entire place had been fumigated and made secure, Bugingo led his guests to a press conference during which the enchanted security operatives (some of them worshipers at HPMI) proclaimed “you even took too long to reopen.” Bugingo told them he didn’t want to act dubiously to abuse the President’s benevolence (he accused some pastors of congregating with more than 70 worshipers yet nobody ever authorized them to).

Saying he believes in transparency and open methods of work, the controversial preacher said he wasn’t comfortable opening and clandestinely having more than 70 worshipers per service without proper authorization because he loves and respects the President and his country Uganda.

He said he knows of fellow pastors who have been holding worship sessions with larger numbers than the 70 which Gen Museveni initially authorized. “I don’t want to commit such an illegality because I’m a law-abiding pastor who loves my President and the country and more importantly who values the life of the members of this church,” Bugingo said.

The taskforce members unanimously agreed that the mitigation measures Bugingo had put in place to protect the worshipers against COVID19 exposure were more than adequate and urged other places of worship to emulate the measures that have been put in place at Canaan Land.

The capacity Bugingo has securely put in place will accommodate more than 1000 worshipers because his church is on a very large piece of land. The taskforce inspectors were impressed with the arrangements to accommodate both worshipers and vehicles. Gratefully, Bugingo has put in place facilities to sanitize and disinfect both vehicles and worshipers on arrival.

Excited by the approval rating the taskforce members gave validating his church’s preparedness to safely congregate more than 70 worshipers, Bugingo announced he would commence with lunch hour fellowships on Monday 26th October. There will be such services for an entire week up to Saturday before resuming the widely broadcast Sunday services on 1st November.

Members of the taskforce expressed optimism that the Bugingo case study won’t only set standards for other churches/worship centers but will also be an important piloting experience on which future government COVID19 restrictions-related decision-making could be benchmarked. They also urged him not to gradually become complacent and relax any of the mitigation measures he currently have in place.

Bugingo said that whereas the required spacing is an apartness of 2 meters from one worshiper to another, he has adequate space to allocate even 4 meters just to ensure maximum safety of worshipers thousands of whom have eagerly been waiting for this day. Bugingo decreed that for purposes of ensuring that Canaan Land doesn’t become a breeding ground for Coronavirus against anyone, children would initially not be permitted at any of the church services meaning only adults will be permitted into the prayer grounds.

The security bosses, from both police and ISO, implored Bugingo to ensure his prayer sessions and lunch hour fellowships aren’t used or infiltrated by rogue-minded individuals to instigate any political chaos this being a hugely heated political season.

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