Churches shut down amidst Coronavirus fear in C’River
By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
For the first time in the history of Cross River state, thousands of Churches in Calabar metropolis did not open for service on Sunday due to an order from the State government suspending social and religious gathering for two weeks.
Gov Ben Ayade’s Senior Special Adviser on Religious Matters, Fr. Bob B. Etta, had on Friday issued a press release suspending social and religious gathering, and emphasized “There is no Church service across the State on Sunday. The Task Force will be going round. Any Church found having service will be sealed for a long while.”
Our reporter, who went round the metropolis to check compliance with the order, observed that Living Faith Church, aka Winners Chapel, Intercessors Bible Ministry (IBM), Lutheran Church, The Apostolic Church, Aroma of Christ Ministry, and many others did not open their doors for their normal Christian worship.
Worshippers who were not fully aware of government’s directives had gone, as usual, to their respective branches of their Churches but to their surprise, discovered that the Churches were locked and keyed.
A worshipper at Winners Chapel 8 miles, in Calabar metropolis, who gave his name simply as Ifeanyi, said the total closure of Churches may not solve the Coronavirus threat since members should have been allowed to gather in clusters to pray for divine intervention.
“This is completely unacceptable to me, why do you lock down Churches which should be the centre of solution in a time like this while markets are allowed to operate in full swing? Church and market, which one has the capacity to attract crowd fast”
“In olden days, believers would declare spiritual warfare on this virus and it would die. Instead of cowing to satanic declaration of suspending services, believers would take this challenge to God in prayers right inside Churches. The people in government, in conjunction with some carnal spiritual leaders, are trying to weaken our faith. Closing down Churches in a moment like this is unchristian, it is from the pit of hell and a glaring sign that the end of the world is near,” he stated.
It was however leant that very few new generation ministries, mainly Pentecostals, opened for services but without blaring their loud speakers, and with such services held behind closed doors without their normal protocols.
But surprisingly, after Churches had closed their doors in compliance with government directives, another press release surfaced from the same office of the Special Adviser on Religious Affairs, directing Churches to open for worship but with only fifty worshipers.
It read in part: “His Excellency has just granted permission for Churches to gather for Masses/ Services Today only to help educate the people on the Coronavirus pandemic. It should be 50 persons per mass/ service, maintaining a social distance of 3 meters and only for one hour.”
Some Church leaders who spoke to our reporter described the latest order as ‘confusing,” saying the second press statement should have reached religious leaders on Saturday to enable them reach out to their membership before Sunday.