- At least 5 major churches to conduct Online services
- Online, television and radio transmission to replace physical gatherings
Prominent pastors in the country will begin to conduct Sunday services online and on television stations in compliance with the directive of government banning all gatherings, including religious gatherings to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The virus which started in Wuhan, China in the late 2019, has claimed many lives with many nations shutting down completely to prevent further spread of the deadly virus.
The Punch reports that many of the big churches have been transmitting their services online, on their television and radio stations for a long time but these platforms will now replace the physical gatherings at their various auditoriums.
Living Faith Church
The presiding bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Dr David Oyedepo, who announced the postponement of the church’s Sunday services across Nigeria and other parts of the world, asked members of the church to join the Sunday service through the church’s YouTube; online radio and other social media platforms. The memo which announced the suspension of worship in Winners’ Chapel churches dated March 20 was written by the First Vice President of the LFC, Bishop David Abioye.
The memo read, “In view of the spread of COVID-19 pandemic across the globe which has necessitated temporary shutdown of activities within nations of the world to curb its further spread, all stations are hereby informed that the Mothers’ Day celebration earlier scheduled for Sunday, 22nd March is hereby postponed indefinitely.
“Furthermore, all stations are to comply with any restriction introduced by the government of their nation, so as not to be seen as contravening the laws of the land.
“Church members should be admonished to take advantage of the various online primary links and other social media platforms below, to watch services in their homes while the situation subsists, believing that an end has come to the spread in the name of Jesus. Amen!
“We should also encourage members to continue to engage the various mysteries of the kingdom to provoke our Covenant of Exemption as established in Psa. 91:10.”
The leadership of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) has also announced that the General Overseer of the mission Pastor Enoch Adeboye, will begin Sunday service on the church’s television station and other online platforms. The Assistant General Overseer in charge of Administration and Personnel, Pastor Funso Odesola who announced this in a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the church, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said this was in compliance with the order of government banning religious gatherings and other human gatherings.
The statement read:
“With effect from Sunday, 22nd March 2020, the general overseer of the Mission, Pastor E.A Adeboye will be on air every Sunday morning for the next four Sundays.
“The sermon which would be transmitted on the church’s Dove Television and other platforms would be another opportunity for a corporate prayer to God for help in the present circumstance.”
The church urged its pastors to guide their congregations to maintain all COVID-19 etiquette such as social distancing and high standard of personal hygiene, including hand-washing regularly with running water and soap and proper use of hand sanitisers.
“With prayer and faith, we believe that God will help us, so that our lives may return to normalcy soon,” he added.
He appealed to members of the church to use the opportunity to draw closer to God and intercede for themselves, relatives and friends and the world at large. Following the new directive of the Lagos State Government that the number of people in any gathering should not be more than 20, the RCCG urged its churches to comply with the directive where service will hold.
“The attention of the leadership of the Redeemed Christian Church of God has been drawn to the new directive of the Lagos State Government reducing the number of people permitted at any social or religious gathering from 50 to 20.
“This cancelled the government’s initial order which formed the basis of arrangements made by many of our Churches for their worship services tomorrow.
It is important that we all adhere to this directive.
“Assured that our God is not limited by space, our Churches are encouraged to put in place any arrangement within the law, suitable to each location, to reach out to their members at this critical time. Plans should be made to have a number of Pastors on ground in all churches to guide and counsel those who would be in Church.
“Where any gathering would hold, we are advised to ensure that the ideal social distancing rule of at least one metre is observed,” the statement read.
Also, the Resident Pastor of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Peace Okonkwo, has said in compliance with the directive of the Lagos State Government, the TREM headquarters church will from March 22 (today) start running online services on the church’s YouTube channel and other social media platforms.
This is contained in a notice to all TREM headquarter members. Okonkwo also said there would be no gathering of people at the headquarters.
The notice read:
“Due to COVID 19 pandemic, TREM will run dedicated services on our You-Tube and social media platforms starting from Sunday March 22. We encourage you to locate a G12 Centre for a worship centre.
“As a follow-up to the government directives on the pandemic situation the world is facing with the coronavirus, I encourage you to please take the issues of hygiene very seriously.
Also kindly wash your hands often and desist from touching your face with unwashed hands.
“In response to the Lagos State directive on COVID-19, we have developed a multi-channel digital approach during our church engagement over the period of the state’s directive. To this end, starting from Sunday, March 22, we will be running online services on our You-Tube channel (TREM Headquarters) Faceboook and Twitter (@mytremword). There will be no physical gathering at the headquarters. However, I encourage you to locate a G-12 centre closest to you for a worship experience on Sundays, (9am) and Tuesday (6 pm) as the Presiding Bishop (Mike Okonkwo) will be ministering to us.”
House on the Rock
The founder and senior pastor of House on the Rock, Paul Aderarasin, also said all church services would hold online in compliance with the ban on public gatherings. Adefarasin announced this on his Twitter handle:
“Hello friends. In the midst of all the noise, don’t forget that God has got you. We speak peace to every troubled heart and healing to ailing bodies in Jesus’ name.
See you online this Sunday (today),” the cleric wrote via his Twitter handle, @pauladefarasin.
Another cleric that has moved his church services online is the senior pastor of Trinity House, Lagos, Ituah Ighodalo, who encouraged his members not to be shaken by the coronavirus spread.
“Due to the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria and in line with the Lagos State Government directive, we will be conducting services differently and making changes to our usual way of gathering.
“Please note, we are not shutting down, we are simply ensuring that our effectiveness as a family is still as potent as when we meet physically.
“There is no distance in the spirit and God will move in the same way he would normally move even when we gather physically. Tune in on the various social media platforms and be blessed.”
On a banner accompanying the post on his Instagram page, @pastorituahighodalo, the cleric added two bank accounts where worshippers could pay in their tithes and offering.
Daystar Christian Centre
Similarly, the senior pastors of Daystar Christian Centre, Pastors Sam and Nike Adeyemi, said in a statement that church services, both at the main auditorium in Oregun, Ikeja and all its satellite centres, would now hold on the church’s online platforms.
Hence, it said there would be no physical gathering.
Ordinarily, the church’s weekend service starts on Saturday evening, which was specifically designed for worshippers who couldn’t make it to church on Sunday. And on Sunday, the church runs four services, and from the beginning of the first service to the end of the fourth service, the attendance is always massive.
But following the directive, the church says all its services, including its mid-week service would now hold online on its main website, its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and its mobile App.
The statement partly read:
“Following the directive of the Lagos State Government to restrict public gathering for religious activities with more than 50 worshippers over the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken some measures to comply for the safety of all while maintaining our unique worship experience.
“From the weekend of March 21, Daystar Christian Centre will not hold physical gathering for worshippers at any of our locations in Oregun, Lekki, Ikorodu and Badagry centres till further notice. The Daystar experience will henceforth hold online on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only on our online platforms.”
The church added that the proposed launch of its Alimosho satellite centre that was to hold on Sunday (today) had been put on hold. “A new date will be made known in due course,” it added.
It turned out, however, that Living Faith Church of Pastor Oyedepo did not keep to the directives on Sunday. From the live stream of the service via the church’s YouTube channel, it was observed that thousands of worshipers gathered inside the church auditorium for service.
This has sparked outrage on social media platforms especially Twitter where users expressed their anger at the perceived defiance of the cleric to the law of the land.
Quite a number of users have also called on the state government to shut down the church.
“People like Oyedepo need to be told in PLAIN CLEAR terms he is NOT above the Law. He has to stop services at Canaanland. If Adeboye and others can obey, who does he think that he is? NO man or entity is bigger than the Government. Those services must stop,” a Twitter user said.