- Title: South Africa's boozy church struggles with COVID-19 lockdown rules
- Date: 3rd July 2020
- Summary: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (JUNE 28, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MEN RAISING BOTTLES OF ALCOHOL AS POPE TSIETSI MAKITI, GABOLA CHURCH LEADER, DRIVES PAST POPE MAKITI DRIVING A WHITE SUV HOLDS A BOTTLE OF WHISKEY OUT OF THE WINDOW / KIDS WAVING WHILE HANGING ON BACK OF SUV WOMAN WAVES WHILE POPE MAKITI DRIVES PAST POPE MAKITI PREACHING WHILE HOLDING UP A BOTTLE OF LIQUEUR MORE OF POPE MAKITI PREACHING POPE MAKITI PREACHING WHILE GABOLA CHURCH CLERGYMEN WATCH POPE MAKITI PREACHING WHILE CONGREGATION IS SEATED AND OBSERVING SOCIAL DISTANCING CLERGYMAN POURING BEER FOR FELLOW CLERGY CLERGYMAN DRINKING BEER VARIOUS OF CONGREGATION DRINKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) GABOLA CHURCH LEADER, POPE TSIETSI MAKITI, SAYING: "It's not only alcohol but the alcohol is the main, main drinking stuff in our church because those people who are drinking, they were rejected from their Apartheid or colonial churches to Gabola church so we are using it as a holy sacrament of Gabola church, we baptise with it and then we welcome the new members in Gabola church." CLERGYMAN POURS BEER INTO A GLASS FOR CONGREGANT WHILE SINGING CONGREGANT HOLDS GLASS OF BEER (SOUNDBITE) (English) GABOLA CHURCH LEADER, POPE TSIETSI MAKITI, SAYING: "The police are harassing Gabola church maybe to thin the reputation or to dent the reputation of the church but we are not worried about that. They can arrest us up until Jesus come back." POPE MAKITI PREACHES TO CONGREGATION IN OPEN FIELD VARIOUS OF CONGREGATION SEATED MORE OF POPE MAKITI PREACHING MEMBER OF THE CLERGY DRINKS ALCOHOL (SOUNDBITE) (Zulu) GABOLA CHURCH MEMBER, NOMPILO MPEMBE, SAYING: "I love Gabola church because we drink and I'm a drinker. So here I'm able to drink freely without hiding. Not this thing of going to church first and then when I come back I have to hide when I want to drink. What I like with this church is that I'm able to do what I want." (SOUNDBITE) (Zulu) GABOLA CHURCH MEMBER, NTHABISENG KOTOPE, SAYING: "The reason why I come to this church is because I feel free and my spirit is at peace. And also what I like about Gabola church is that we don't hide ourselves as drinkers like in other churches. So here I'm able to get drunk while praying and worshiping. The very same thing I do in conservative churches, I also do here." GABOLA CHURCH CLERGYMAN DRINKING ALCOHOL GABOLA CHURCH CLERGYMEN DANCING AND SINGING / EMPTY BOTTLES OF ALCOHOL ON TABLE RED BRIEF CASE ON TABLE WITH WORDS READING: "ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME" / CLERGYMAN PLACES EMPTY BOTTLES OF ALCOHOL ON TABLE
- Embargoed: 17th July 2020 12:54
- Keywords: Christianity Gabola church Pope Tsietsi Makiti Pro-drink Christians drinking in church holy sacrament shebeens
- Location: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
- City: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001CL9811Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: When South Africa began easing its coronavirus lockdown in May, it allowed religious worshippers to gather in groups of up to 50, but maintained a ban on anyone assembling to drink alcohol.
That's a problem for the "Gabola" church -- the name means 'drinking' in the local Tswana language -- for whom a tipple is an integral part of their religious service.
They tried their usual meetings in local bars, called shebeens, to praise God while downing whiskey. That quickly got them arrested by the police, its leader and self-styled 'Pope' Tsietsi Makiti told Reuters.
"They can arrest us until Jesus comes back," Makiti, wearing a mitre like that which adorns the Pope's head except with a miniature bottle of spirits hanging off it, said defiantly.
But he admitted they had had to move services from place to place to avoid a run-in with the authorities.
On Sunday (June 28, 2020), the church met in a rubbish-strewn field in Evaton, south of Johannesburg. As the service started, the clergy blessed some beer bottles in prayer.
The 'Pope' and five clergymen, all in flowing black robes and coloured scarves embroidered with the cross, sat in front of a table with empty booze bottles. The congregants made their way to their seats to hear Makiti's sermon, which included such proclamations as: "We are a church that will remake the world."
Booze aside, other coronavirus rules were kept, with a limit of 50 people, chairs spaced out for social distancing and alcohol -- for cleaning hands, not drinking.
"I love Gabola church because we drink and I'm a drinker. So here I'm able to drink freely without hiding. Not this thing of going to church first and then when I come back I have to hide when I want to drink. What I like with this church is that I'm able to do what I want," said Nompilo Mpembe, a member of the church which was founded two years ago.
"The reason why I come to this church is because I feel free and my spirit is at peace. And also what I like about Gabola church is that we don't hide ourselves as drinkers like in other churches. So here I'm able to get drunk while praying and worshiping. The very same thing I do in conservative churches, I also do here," said Nthabiseng Kotope, who joined the church in March.
Debate rages within Christianity as to whether the Bible forbids, permits or encourages alcohol. Pro-drink Christians site passages such as Noah planting a vineyard and then getting inebriated on the proceeds, or Jesus turning seven massive jars of water into wine for a wedding where the booze had run out.
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