The government’s decision to relax the lockdown by allowing some markets, businesses and commercial transporters to operate, while others, including the religious sector, remain shut, has ignited reactions from some pastors. They are calling on government to reopen churches to enable the faithful commune with their Creator.
The President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Rev. Dr. Felix Omobude, said worshippers are eager to gather for spiritual bonding.
“Christians that have been used to going to church look forward to when they can resume church,” he explained. “While we appreciate government’s concerns and the solidarity shown by churches to shutdown for over seven weeks, the church could keep better social distancing than markets, banks and motor parks. We can ensure that people who come to the church sanitise and wash their hands.
We just kept quiet because we have to do the government’s bidding.” He noted that the Church is a disciplined organisation and does not pull larger crowds than markets.
The former General Secretary of Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Abuja, Rev. Father Ralph Madu said the Catholic Church was willing to reopen, and that the agitation to reopen churches is normal.
He said: “You know it’s a normal human behaviour, especially when there is some prohibition, to try to get out of it. We believe that with God’s intervention, we will survive the pandemic. So, people are eager to come together and pray. The government should understand there is nothing wrong, when people express their views on some issues.
“Even though people have been praying individually, but coming together to pray strengthens their faith, as well as give them the courage in the fight against COVID-19.”
He, however, cautioned the agitators, saying going against health experts’ advice could backfire. But the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, differed in his view on the issue.
While acknowledging that worshipping together is a biblical injunction, he argued that the agitation for a reopening is premature. He said: “What led to the suspension of large gatherings was the COVID-19 pandemic, which has, today, infected about three million people globally and led to the death of thousands of people. The Coronavirus is highly contagious and deadly. A wise person will not insist on going back to fellowship together in large gatherings now, because the rate of daily infection is now higher than when the government first placed restrictions on large gatherings. What is the wisdom in rushing back to church or mosque for worship? Is it to go and get more people infected?
“I urge church leaders to be law-abiding and resist the temptation to rush back to church and worship in large congregations now. With our prayers and government’s actions, we will soon overcome this terrible scourge in Jesus’ name. ”
The General Overseer of Revival Assembly Church, Apostle Anselm Madubuko said there’s nothing like face-to-face fellowship, when the atmosphere is right. He noted that those calling for reopening of churches had their reasons.
“People are hearing God’s word, which is the important thing,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any rush. After all, we’ve been in this condition since six weeks now. Maybe those calling for reopening of churches are missing their members. But what some people are asking is, why should markets be opened and churches closed?
“The church is just for two hours, while markets open for 10 hours. If government said everybody should shut down, I wouldn’t have had any problem with that. “