In the face of COVID-19, gospel music has brought solace to the bereaved, encouragement to the struggling and hope to pandemic survivors.
The Rev. Archford Muchingami, Buhera West United Methodist Church, recovered from COVID-19. He said gospel music provided strength and comfort.
“I managed my anxieties and uncertainties of coronavirus infection while in my isolation room,” he said, “by listening to good gospel music and singing along. At low volume, I could feel the soothing melody penetrating my body and touching every nerve.
“I felt a sense of pleasure,” Muchingami added. “It boosted my morale and brought me very close to God.”
Tendekayi Kuture, retired head music lecturer and choir director at Africa University, said music informs, advises, encourages and educates — and even heals.
Pandemic-induced lockdowns and suspension of in-person gatherings have proven especially difficult for those called to lead and participate in music during in-person worship.
Britney Sadete, 11, is an upcoming junior church musician at Hunyani United Methodist Church.
“We do not have anywhere and anyone to sing to since the churches are closed,” she said. “We have posted audio songs on different social media platforms, but very few people access it due to the high cost of downloading.”
At home, family members who do not share Sadete’s passion “complain that I will be making a lot of noise,” she said. “This is very frustrating for me because the lockdown has derailed my program after I had gained a lot of mileage in my music.”
Barnabas Mutonga, Zimbabwe East Conference worship chairperson, said The United Methodist Church is well known for traditional and contemporary music.
“The COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, “has caused a lot of hindrances in our church worship services. We normally blend the service with choir and praise and worship groups.
“For us to produce good music,” Mutonga continued, “we need to practice as a group. For us to produce melodious voices, we need to be close to each other. For the voices to be well projected, choristers need to sing without masks, but COVID-19 preventative measures do not allow that.”
Patricia Mapani, choir director at Chisipiti United Methodist Church, and her husband, Ricky, are music lovers.
“Music is in my blood and family,” she said. When in-person worship was suspended, the couple invested in a keyboard and a portable recharge speaker.
“We use these to play and record music videos at home,” she said. “We also invite fellow individual worshippers to come and record music for Sunday virtual services.”
Christine Anesu Hove, 29, a praise and worship member at Chisipiti United Methodist Church, records with Mapani. “I eat, breathe and speak music,” Hove said, “and that is how I am fulfilling my calling during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
“On some Sundays,” he said, “we simulate a church service and sing as a family. We also sing as a choir during a virtual church service held on Zoom,” he said. Through the family WhatsApp group, he shares recorded audios.
Barbara Katsande, finance chairperson for Bulawayo Midlands District and witness coordinator for Gweru East United Methodist Church, said music soothes the soul and the mind.
“Without music,” she said, “I am ‘dead,’ because music helps to bring out the joy in me.”
With music, Katsande said, “I felt uplifted and consoled.”
Gladys Chitiyo, a junior Sunday school teacher at Chinzanga United Methodist Church, said music enlivens worship and inspires participation. “During COVID-19,” she said, “music was like an injection that healed every pain.
“I am proud of my church which has invested in music,” she said. “Today we are enjoying the legacy which was started by Charles Wesley.”
Betty Patricia Musa, pastor parish relations committee chairperson at Kotwa UMC, said United Methodist hymns have strong messages about God’s help and protection in difficult times.
Music “gives me peace and hope and uplifts my soul,” Musa said. “I feel rejuvenated and become a conqueror.
“There is no one with an answer except God. When I sing, I feel as though I am communicating with God directly.”
Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference.
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