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COVID-19: Churches suspend Sunday services, other activities

By Chris Irekamba
22 March 2020   |   3:10 am
In compliance with Lagos State government’s advisory on religious gatherings to curb the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19), many churches have suspended their major and weekly activities

In compliance with Lagos State government’s advisory on religious gatherings to curb the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19), many churches have suspended their major and weekly activities, including Sunday services, which usually attract thousands of worshippers.

The Guardian’s check revealed that many of the churches have opted for online services.

For instance, the House On The Rock Churches informed members to watch out for the commencement of online services starting from today.

A statement signed by the church’s Senior and Co-pastor, Pastors Paul and Ifeanyi Adefarasin, said: “In view of the global health crisis posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Lagos State government has proactively issued an official statement prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people in a bid to curb the further spread of the virus. We, at House On The Rock, are in full support of this and committed to doing everything possible to halt the spread of the virus within our community, state and nation.
“Consequently, we are suspending all Church service gatherings, classes, meetings, and programmes at The Rock Cathedral, Lekki and The Rock Chapel, Ikeja until further notice… Our Church services will hold virtually on our various digital platforms from this Sunday, March 22 at 9 am…”

Similarly, the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, under the leadership of Pastor William Kumuyi, has suspended all Sunday services. On a social media platform, the church also suspended Tuesday leadership meeting, including Saturday workers’ meeting, which holds at the Gbagada headquarters.

Kumuyi also directed all local districts to comply with the Lagos State’s order. A document signed by the church secretary, S.M. Afuwape directed all groups and districts too, “please note that all programmes at Gbagada Church have been suspended. No gathering of worshippers should be more than 50…”

The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries has suspended its deliverance services, as well as house fellowship meetings and other activities. With the theme: “Interim arrangement for ministerial services in Lagos and Ogun States MFM regions,” the Assistant General Overseer (Administration), Pastor Gbesan Adebambo, who signed the document, directed that all services in its parishes in Lagos and Ogun be cancelled.

The statement read: “No services, including deliverance ministrations, must hold in any of MFM branches at all levels in the Region under your supervision, until further notice. Likewise, all house fellowship meetings at any of the centres are postponed until further notice. All members are to engage in 30-day personal prayer retreat, beginning from Sunday, March 22 to Monday, April 20, 2020, and the prayer booklet would be made available free.

“Members are to be encouraged to hook up to an online page on which ministration on video will be streamed live from the international headquarters covering the period of the interim arrangement…”

In its reaction, The Synagogue Church of All Nations posted on its Facebook: “Viewers, listen to your government and obey the instructions given to you. For example, instructions concerning gatherings at this time. They are authorities established by God (Romans 13). A good Christian is a good citizen. Whatever life brings, you are not alone. We are on our knees praying for you and your nation. God bless you as you obey. Jesus is Lord.”

A statement jointly signed by Senior Pastors of Daystar Christian Centre, Dr. Sam and Nike Adeyemi, said the church would not hold services for worshippers in Oregun, Lekki, Ikorodu and Badagry.

Directing members to connect to online services, Adeyemi said:

“…From the weekend of March 21, Daystar Christian Centre will not hold a physical gathering for worshippers at our locations until further notice. The Daystar experience will henceforth hold online…”

But the head of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Dr. Samuel Uche said: “The Lagos State government never said we should shut down. Rather, the release restricted number of worshippers to 50 people. That is what Methodist Church is adhering to. It said worship places should remain open in line with government’s directive. It doesn’t mean the closure of churches or not closure. The government said no more than 50 people should gather for worship and we are adhering to ‘not more than 50’ in our church.

“So, it’s not that we are disobeying government or anything. I know it is an emergency situation and of course, you know that the coronavirus will not continue. We will review the situation as time goes on. But in the whole of South-South, there is no restriction, likewise the whole of Southeast, aside Anambra … but they never mentioned worship places, just markets and schools.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos in compliance with the directive said: “…As a Church, we are concerned about public health and welfare, as well as the protection of our faith and practices at the same time. We have been rather appalled at the level of preparedness to confront the pandemic in our public health facilities, given the experiences related by some who have had the need to contact the facilities or have had to use them.”

The statement, signed by Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, lamented that the Nigerian borders are porous and largely unattended, with regard to the coronavirus spread. He also pointed out that the public transportation system and other public gatherings that could be sources of the spread of the virus are still very much unregulated.

He said: “These make us fear that the measures we are to take with regards to the public gathering to worship may be undermined by these other factors. However, we have a responsibility to cooperate with the government with regard to the welfare of citizens, while also taking cognisance of the sacredness of our faith and practices…”

The Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria has directed its branches with less than 50 worshippers to continue with their services, but those with attendance above 50 have been directed to adhere to the benchmark of 50 people. They are to utilise options of running shift services, as well as operate through House Fellowship and or use the opportunity to create additional meeting places to comply with the directive.

A statement signed by the church’s National Secretary, Rev. Yomi Oyinloye read: “However, for smaller group meetings and mid-week services, churches are directed to ensure the rule of thumb, the benchmark of 50 and utilisation of House Fellowship and other additional meeting places that can be created.”

The document directed senior pastors/ministers in charge to ensure that message /teaching outlines are prepared and shared across all available platforms.

“Churches are to ensure adherents maintain good hygiene in all our premises and meeting places, which include but not limited to the washing of hands, the use of hand sanitisers and avoidance of bodily contact. All our large programmes and gathering are suspended for now, until otherwise directed.”

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