Live funerals and online services: churches in Ghana adapt to Covid



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The pandemic has forced many Christian Ghanaians to change their religious practices, with churches turning to online services and donations, and live funerals.

More than 70% of the West African country’s 30 million people are Christians, mostly Pentecostals or evangelists, who have had to adhere to strict rules in churches to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are following the government’s instructions to the letter. But Covid-19 has significantly affected our attendance,” said Rev. Kofi Oduro Agyeman-Prempeh of Destiny Adenta Church in a suburb of the capital Accra.

More than 92,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Ghana and 780 people have died, although the actual figure is higher due to a lack of testing.

“Even though the national numbers are low these days, I can see that the fear of contamination is still present. During mass, the faithful are more reluctant to get up, dance and sing,” added Agyeman-Prempeh.

In an effort to reassure his congregation, the Reverend registered the church on Asoriba, an app and website that connects churches to worshipers.

Founded in Ghana in 2015, the app provides tools for pastors to organize events, monitor attendance, and communicate with members.

Since the onset of the pandemic, subscriptions have increased by 30%, according to the founders.

“The pandemic has validated everything we have done so far. We have identified a real need. We know the future will be digital, including the future of religious practices,” said one of the co-workers. founders of Asoriba, Savior Kwaku Dzage.

Once registered on the platform, the faithful can easily send donations by mobile transfer.

“Even during Covid, the church needs this money to grow and help the needy. And since cash is seen as a potential vector of contamination, online payment seemed like the obvious solution,” Dzage said.

– Virtual funeral –

Half of Ghanaians do not have internet access, but with a majority of its population under the age of 30, digital penetration has accelerated in recent years, from 23.5% in 2015 to 55.6 % in 2020, according to Ghana’s national statistics office.

Before the pandemic, funerals in Ghana were famous the world over for being a colorful event, with music, song and dance. With the arrival of the Covid, the funeral was first limited to 100 people and then to 25.

“It has been heartbreaking for us,” said Rev. Banister Tay, director of operations for Transitions, an Accra-based funeral service.

“As only a handful of loved ones can now attend the ceremony in person, we had to provide a way for others to attend virtually.”

With the aim of “digitizing the funeral industry”, Transitions has been offering streaming services and an online donation platform since 2018.

“When Covid arrived we were already ahead,” Tay said, adding that they suddenly had to step up their game.

“Only one percent of our customers used our streaming services before the pandemic, they are now almost 90 percent. “

During services, film crews buzz: three cameras typically film indoors while another films outdoors to capture the arrivals of those lucky enough to attend in person.

Two Transitions employees manage the live image stream and collect the money sent online.

“This pandemic was an opportunity to teach Ghanaians that funerals can also be done online, and that nothing is lost. We even realized that online donations were superior to physical donations!

Tay is optimistic about the future and believes the virtual funeral will continue after the restrictions are lifted.

“A significant portion of our streaming audience are members of the diaspora. Many Ghanaians live abroad and cannot always return home when they lose a loved one.

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