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Following the permission by the Lagos state government after about 20 Sundays of closure due to Covid -19 global pandemic, Churches in the state both big and small opened their gates and doors to do what they are called to do.

It was therefore a day of reunion and jubilation as they all celebrated their survival of the pandemic which had left millions affected across the world.

Reports monitored by PTL News showed that members were all out to make their presence known to their creators and worship Him within the stipulated safety guidelines ordered by the government and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

In several churches, worshippers complied with COVID-19 protocols, such as wearing of face masks, observance of social distancing and hand washing.

Some churches had inscriptions welcoming worshippers and highlighting the need to comply with the protocols.

Many mega Churches like The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Deeper Life Christian Ministry, Foursquare Gospel Church, Anglican Communion, Methodist Church, African Church, Christ Apostolic Church and the Assemblies of God Church, as well as most of the small ones were all reopened.

At the national headquarters of the RCCG, Ebute-Metta, there was a big inscription informing members and visitors to wear facemasks. Ushers checked the temperature of worshippers, who were instructed to wash their hands and writes their names on a register.

At some of the churches it was observed that children and the elderly were absent in accordance with the directive of the state government. Children below 12 were sent back.

Social distancing rule was maintained in the church and monitored by the Pastor in charge of the Church. Multiple services were introduced. At 8 am, the first service began with 360 worshippers in a hall meant for thousands. The second service had 44 worshippers in attendance.

At the Foursquare Gospel Church national headquarters, the requirements for entering the church were stated at the entrance.

A notice reads: “kindly check your temperatures and sanitise your hands at this point. “You will not be allowed into this church if you decline the checks. Help us reduce your risk of coronavirus infection!”

The Church also had two services, and despite having a capacity for 2,000, provision was made for 200 worshippers with social distancing in place. An attendance slip was distributed to every worshipper for data gathering.

Similarly, the protocol was followed by the Christ Apostolic Church (the Power of God Saves) in Egbeda.

From the gate, officials directed worshippers to wash their hands, get their temperature checked and hands sanitised. A small registration sheet indicating name, sex, age, address, telephone number and email address were handed out to be returned to the ushers.

At St Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Yaba, there was compliance with the protocols. The 500-capacity Church had only 80 worshippers for the first service and less than 50 congregants for the second service (Yoruba). Two people were allowed to seat on a long wooden chair. The priests on the altar also maintained social distancing.

At the St.Dominic’s Catholic Church, Yaba, Lagos, Masses were held at five different centres simultaneously.

At the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Power House, Shomolu, there was a low turnout but the members thanked God for sparing their lives.

Churches in Amuwo Odofin area of Lagos complied with the COVID-19 protocols. Automated hand wash units and hand sanitiser dispensers, soaps, water and infrared thermometers were provided. Big banners with “No Mask, No Entry” inscriptions were displayed at the doors. Social distancing was observed by worshippers, with “Do Not Sit” written on papers placed on intervening seats.

At the Living Faith Church, A.K.A. Winners Chapel, Dominion Centre, in FESTAC Town, the Provincial Head, Pastor Alex Aina, said worshippers were excited to resume and, therefore, complied with the guidelines.

At the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ikate in Surulere, the first service lasted for about two hours with not more than 30 worshipers. Only two persons sat per pew. All worshipers wore face masks. The church distributed free face masks and hand sanitisers to members.

Worshippers at the Royalty Christian Centre and Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bethsaida Parish, Agege, complied with the protocols. Infrared thermometers, automated hand sanitisers and running water were in place for congregants. The Head Pastor of Royalty Christian Centre, David Adeoye, urged members to avoid touching or hugging while exchanging pleasantries.

He said: “We’ve been told not to hug or shake. However, waving is permitted.”

For offerings, he said members could use e-banking alternatives.

“If you would like to give cash, kindly wrap in an envelope, seal and pass it on, but if you would like to transfer, you may use the POS machine we have provided for use,” he said.

In Ikorodu, the 8:15 am Mass at Saint Augustine Catholic Church, Mary Hill, Ikorodu, held with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocol and regulations.

Only 40 per cent of worshippers were allowed in per mass, with two services running simultaneously. Security personnel on the ground assisted with crowd control.

Also, there were various handwashing stations and sanitiser dispensers at strategic points within the church, just as they ensured all worshippers wore face masks.

During the service, all worshippers observed social distance, with only three parishioners on a pew, just as the service was short.

In Oshodi, it was no different as the 6 am mass at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Oshodi, which was held in five different locations within the church premises.

Each location had a maximum of 50 persons and people were moved to the next location once the previous reached its full capacity.

Also, all members and parishioners complied with the face mask policy while the church also ensured that temperatures were checked and hands washed as they came through the entrance.

During the service, which only lasted for an hour, social distance was observed. Only four persons sat on the pews that would normally have contained 12 persons each.

Also, handshaking, loitering or hugging after service was disallowed as members were asked to go home immediately so to allow other members come in for the second mass.

With this it has shown that the Church has adjusted itself to the new realities of meeting under the Covid -19 safety guidelines.

However, some Churches were yet to open for Sunday Services. This was due to the directives from their headquarters and leaders not to open for services for one reason or the other.

For instance, the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC) formerly Latter Rain Assembly, the Household of God Church, the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Daystar Christian Centre, and Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) did not reopen their churches yesterday.

Pastor Tunde Bakare said reopening of churches in the midst of the rampaging pandemic would amount to driving Christians like sheep to the slaughter houses by trooping to churches, Rev. Chris Okotie rejected the use of face masks in the church, saying it will amount to the reintroduction of the veil, which was abolished when Jesus Christ died on the cross.

Prophet Temitope Joshua said he needed to hear from God before reopening SCOAN services, while MFM headquarters had directed the Church not to resume until September.

Maintaining Social Distancing at a Church Service  

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Julius Adegunna, a writer, and publisher of good news and reports. He is also a trainer in Writing and Publishing, a Media Consultant and an Entrepreneur. A 1987 Graduate of International Relations of the University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations, and Master in Communication Studies of Lagos State University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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