As countries around the globe implement measures to contain coronavirus – from national quarantine to closure of churches, markets, mosques and every form of gathering – there have been concerns about how Christians will observe Easter Sunday today amid the lockdown across Nigeria.
From the Catholic Church, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Methodist Church Nigeria, the Baptist Church, and many Protestant churches, which have all been forced to reduce their worship to online as they obey the directive on social distancing, everyone has closed its auditoriums to adherents.
Asked to outline plans for today’s Easter service, Director of Social Services at the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev. Father Anthony Godonu, said there will be no change due to the prevailing circumstances.
According to him, the only arrangement on ground is for live broadcast via television and online streaming. “We all aware of the ban on religious gatherings of not more than 50 persons by the Lagos State government. This ban is also directed at us as Catholics, and we are members of a larger society”, Godonu said.
“At the moment, the Lagos Archdiocese is assessing the situation”. The story is not different at the Anglican Church, as the Administration Assistant to the Bishop has penned a letter to the clergy and church agents on a temporary modification to the mode of worship.
“The recent pronouncement by Lagos State government in view of the efforts to stem the spread of COVID 19 refers”, he said in a memo. “The relationship between the State and the Church must be maintained, at all times.
“In view of the above, I have been directed by the Lord Bishop to inform you of the need for all priests in the Diocese to adhere strictly to the following, with immediate effect:
1. Parishes must provide water and soap for the washing of hands.
2. “Sanitizers should be provided, and all members should be encouraged to maintain high standard personal hygiene.
3. One hour services must be conducted for members, not exceeding 50 in multiple sanctuary/chapel hall.
4. “Individual cups should be encouraged for use during Holy Communion service.
5. Individuals should clap their hands (instead of hand shaking or hugging) during the time for peace at Holy Communion services.
“Compliance with the above listed is the wisest thing to do at a time like this. The steps are not to hinder any faithful from worshipping the Almighty God. May our cry for mercy be heard by Him in Jesus name”.
Other orthodox and spiritual churches which annually celebrate Easter with pomp and pageantry have all decided to use the virtual means to reach out to their members.
Saint Joseph’s Chosen Church of God, SJCCG, a spiritual church with spiritual headquarters in Benin City, has also decided to adhere strictly to governmental instructions on social distancing by hosting a low profile service.
A statement by Pastor Victor Mukwuzi, the Personal Assistant to the new Spiritual Leader of SJCCG, Apostle Wilfred Uyiekpen Omoregie, said: “We in St. Joseph’s Chosen Church, as a law abiding body of believers, will operate within the ambit of space given to Churches depending on the laws governing that area.”
According to the successor to late Apostle Hayford Alile, “where there is total lockdown, we shall exploit all our online platforms to reach out to our members, and where the laws give room for limited congregation, we shall hold brief services while observing the stipulated social distancing rule presently in operation”.
From the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Evangelical confraternity, which has downplayed Easter, it’s not surprising that many of them were silent on Easter programmes.
Deeper Christian Life Church, which was supposed to have started her Easter retreat at its Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Deeper Life Conference Centre, DLCC, on Thursday, has maintained a studied silence.
A source close to the church, however, said the leadership, in obedience to the stay-at-home instruction, had decided to beam the General Superintendent, Pastor William Folorunsho Kumuyi’s lectures on Friday evening, Saturday morning and another one on Sunday morning.
Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, has resorted to making regular broadcasts via the church’s Dove Television and several other internet platforms to keep his members from harm’s way even as he prays for his spiritual children as well as his mockers.
Immediate past President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and founder of Word of Life Bible Church, Warri, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, is also obeying the social distancing policy and has announced to his members to follow developments which will be beamed live on the church’s African Broadcasting Network, ABN, and social media platforms including YouTube beginning with a Communion Service on Good Friday with Rev. (Mrs.) Helen Oritsejafor ministering.
From the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries, which planned an annual crusade, said it had fully complied to government directive on social distancing by suspending all activities particularly in Lagos and Abuja until further notice.
The church’s Director, Public Relations, Pastor Louis Chidi, said, “Sequel to that, we have concluded plan to broadcast live on our Chosen Revival Cable TV and all social media platforms during the two-day Easter programme titled, ‘God’s covenant of peace and blessing,’ billed for yesterday and today at 10.00 a.m. daily.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, on its part, will go on air with a special programme, ‘Elijah of Our Time’, targeting the rampaging Covid-19.
According to the Chairman of the Ministry’s Media Committee, Pastor Oladele Bank-Olemoh, the new programme, to be anchored live by the General Overseer of the MFM Worldwide, Dr. Daniel Olukoya, will be aired on Eko FM 89.75FM on Saturday, between 9.10 and 9.30pm and on Sunday, from 9.30 to 10.00am.