Torn between faith and the virus

Religious activities are popularly known to be a sine-qua-non of human culture especially in this part of the world. Places of worship such as churches, mosques e.t.c are often designated for such religious gatherings of people. But then, along came COVID-19 pandemic spilling on our faces an unrealistic communal mode of worship which required adjustments by religious groups or bodies in their practice of worship. 

The adoption of virtual services to churches is not new to the Nigerian religious bodies but the pandemic brought it to an almost-permanent mode of worship leaving people to wonder if it was a new normal!

Consequently, in the face of present realities and following the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown directives; the government in response to a mild out-cry on social media by aggrieved pastors, and religious enthusiasts protesting the prolonged lockdown of religious houses, released directives/guidelines to regulate the reopening of religious houses. 

Notable amongst these are: 

  • The prohibition of night vigils permitting only regular services; 
  • Attendees above 65 years and children below 10 years are discouraged from attending; 
  • The compulsory use of facemasks by churchgoers; 
  • Holding services in well-ventilated premises;
  • Compulsory use of appropriate screening equipment to check for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • The use of the electronic method for offerings and tithe collection;
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of facilities;
  • Mandatory provision of handwashing facilities and sanitizers;
  • Prominently displaying the national emergency response phone lines;
  • Organized and orderly conduction of the flow of human traffic in and out of the premises e.t.c. 

Regardless of these laid down directives, the major concern for the prolonged lockdown of religious houses stems from the fact that the resumption might lead to a possible rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases due to the large gathering in churches.

This brings to mind some questions and concerns. 

Despite the outcry for resumption, should churches be allowed to resume knowing the threat and severe consequences it holds to the environment? Prayer isn’t restricted to just the confinement of the church building,  so why the fuss? Should we really tie our Christianity to the church premises? What happens to our personal spiritual life? Has it gone so bad that despite the dire situation at hand, in spite of the need for public safety, some people think that preventing them from the very place that arguably poses a threat to their health is doing them a disservice? Despite the afore-mentioned laid down directives, it is safe to ask, would the churches plan to re-open be able to abide by the rules and prevent the spread of the virus?

Citing an example of a possible dire consequence, the Christian group Shincheonji in South Korea which claims to have over 245,000 members was reported to have caused a drastic increase in the spread of the COVID-19 cases in the country. At the centre of the outbreak was Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an eccentric religious group based in Daegu, more than half of South Korea’s coronavirus cases are linked to Shincheonji members, all because the church doctrine fails to believe there was an emergency as they were already promised eternal life, so stopping service wasn’t an option.

Bringing it back home, The House On The Rock church despite the government directives on re-opening of churches put out a statement to its members stating its Lekki church is not yet open for in-person services and Church services, meetings and classes continue online. This begs the question: Why the rush?

As a Christian, we should be familiar with the bible verse Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” based on that, we do not need physical structure to be able to express our faith in God, God is everywhere, we can pray right in our houses and still get answers to our prayers. Even the Bible says to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. In this trying time, all we need paramount is making sure we stay safe and steer clear of possible ways to put us in harm’s way. If in any way we need to consult with our pastors, spiritual leaders, we can always do virtual and everyone is assured of safety.

In conclusion, your faith speaks for you!!! Do well to use it regardless of the situation.

Do you think the government should have yielded to the outcry and re-open the church?

Where do you stand? Share your thoughts!

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