A lot of people in Zimbabwe now prefer home-based church sessions. It is now common in most high-density surbubs to see small gatherings worshipping at a verandah or in the lounge of a selected believer. Some even go to the extent of holding all-night prayers in the comfort of their homes.

Temples and synagogues are no longer regarded as preferred places of worship as most believers have adopted the “easy route”.

But the existence of these “churches” has resulted in both positive and negative effects. Most people interviewed expressed their displeasure at worshippers, saying the gatherings disturbed their peace.

This rise in home worship has seen an increase in complaints from neighbours about noise, traffic congestion and parking problems.

Some worshippers routinely cross over into their neighbours’ territories in search of parking space, as host yards would be too small resulting in the neighbour getting upset after his or her lawn is trampled upon or finding the way out of their own yards blocked.

With most people taking the weekend as their resting time, home-based churches are becoming a thorn in the flesh. The worshippers’ noise filters through, thereby disturbing others.

“It is so irritating that after a week at work, you are trying to settle down and rest. Then there are worshippers in the next house who spend the whole night singing and dancing. I am a Christian, but I have my own way of doing things. It is hard to go and silence them. But deep down in my heart, I know it is not good,” said Tapera Munjoma of Chitungwiza (ca 30 km south of Harare)

“Responsible authorities need to do something. A residential area is a residential area and people need peace and tranquility.

“We need to rest during weekends, but the disturbance we get from home churches is very irritating. I think people need to gather in homes maybe once in a month, but if it’s five times a week and all night long, it’s very disturbing,” said a woman from Dombotombo in Marondera (72 km east of Harare), who refused to be named.

However, there is no official permission required to create a church in the country.

Several local governments have tried using zoning laws to bar house church meetings, or to limit the frequency and size of the meetings.

Home church leaders interviewed stated the following, “We are here to serve the Lord and we can serve the Lord everywhere and every time. I understand that there are some residents who do not attend church services, but I am suprised to hear one castigating the practise in any place. I have been running a church at this place for the past five years and I haven’t received any complaints,” said Pastor John Ngoma from Chitungwiza.

Many pastors of established churches are aware that they cannot effectively minister to congregations numbering thousands. They subsequently organise members into “cell groups”.

The groups usually meet on a weeknight to discuss the previous week’s sermon or to study the Bible or an assigned book.