The Senior Pastor of the Household of God Church International Ministries, Chris Okotie, on Sunday kicked against the Christian Association of Nigeria’s (CAN) proposed social distancing guidelines for churches.
Mr Okotie, who was the presidential candidate of Fresh Democratic Party, frowned at CAN’s decision to allow what he described as the ‘Idol of Coronavirus’ determine the scope of congregational worship in churches in Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement he posted on his official Facebook page.
The cleric referenced a report published in the Sun Newspaper on Sunday wherein CAN unveiled guidelines for the reopening of churches in the first week of June.
He said, “Social distancing in the Church of Jesus Christ is tantamount to blasphemous infidelity and an impeachment of the integrity of the Word of God. Healing is fundamental to the redemptive work of Jesus.
“To allow the idol of Corona Virus to determine the scope of congregational worship in the house of God is an abomination of gargantuan proportions. No true minister of the gospel will succumb to such travesty of the faith. This is a summary of my objections.
“I have sent this message hoping that you would respond as one who bears the burden of the Cross of Jesus. I have restrained myself from making a public outcry of this desecration and profanation out of respect for you and the CAN hierarchy. But be assured that this position is transient.”
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Nigeria, a ban has been placed on social and religious gatherings in the country to curb the spread of the virus.
But some Nigerian pastors have challenged the directive.
A popular pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, recently berated his colleagues, (Nigerian pastors) that complied with the government’s ban on large gatherings because of coronavirus.
Mr Oyakhilome, who is the general overseer of Believers’ Love World, popularly known as Christ Embassy, said such leaders were not true Christians as they did not ask the government for time to pray and consult with their congregation.
The Christian Association of Nigeria recently expressed hope that the ban on religious gatherings in the country may be lifted by the first Sunday of June.
CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, a reverend, gave the indication in a statement.
Mr. Ayokunle said churches will disinfect their premises, as well as make provisions for alcohol sanitisers, among others.
He also suggested the use of face masks and adherence to other social distancing measures.
The suggested guidelines are stated below:
Churches should disinfect their premises first before they are reopened for services.
Churches should provide alcoholic sanitizers, temperature readers, soap, and water in their premises to be supervised by medical professionals in the Church.
Every worshipper must either use soap to wash their hands or apply sanitizers.
The temperature of every worshipper must be taken before admission into the church and people with high temperatures should not be allowed into the church but be advised to go and see their doctors.
Every worshipper must wear a face mask. Social distancing should be observed in the sitting arrangement with a one-meter gap between two worshippers.
One and a half-hour service is enough for a start. There should be a gap of 25 or 30 minutes between one service and another where there are multiple services to avoid the crowd.
Churches can make use of classrooms and multipurpose halls for services where available, especially in big churches in order to accommodate more worshippers at a go. TV circuits and speakers can be used for those who are not inside the main auditorium.
Handshaking and hugging should be avoided before, during, and after the service. Prayers should be offered to God for a speedy end of COVID-19 and quick recovery of all that are afflicted by the pandemic. Prayers should also be offered for those frontline workers for divine protection.
CAN in each state and local government should constitute a committee together with law enforcement agencies in their area to enforce full compliance.
Such civilian compliance officials should be given backing by the governments to apprehend those who contravene the worship regulations and hand them over to law enforcement agents.
Churches observing Holy Communion service should use a separate cup for each participant.