General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Lagos State branch of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN were the first set of Christians to welcome the re-opening of worship centres that were shot down since March this year as part of measures to arrest the spread of the dreaded coronavirus.
In a telephone interview, the Head of Media and Public Relations of RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi expressed gratitude to the Lagos State government for the gesture, stressing that as a church, the RCCG which has been preparing members for a post-lockdown experience, will adhere strictly to the protocols demanded by the authorities.
According to him, the RCCG has had several virtual services where the General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye in a series titled: “From lockdown to leaping up,” has been preparing members of the church for Post-COVID-19 challenges, assuring them that God had used lockdown in the past to elevate His children.
He mentioned David, Elijah and Joseph as biblical characters who experienced upliftment after lockdown. To make the best out of the current lockdown, Adeboye said Christians should rejoice, praise God and pray, stating “there has never been a better time to pray because you have more time and less things to do.”
Asked to react to Gov. Sanwo-Olu’s subtle ban on persons above 65 years from such weekly services which will affect Pastor Adeboye and several of his members and colleagues in other churches, the RCCG spokesman said its a temporary measure that may not adversely affect them as has been seen in the last couple of weeks.
“We hope that God will soon arrest the pandemic and everything will normalise to the glory of His name,” Pastor Olubiyi stated.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins also expressed delight at the news of re-opening of worship centres by the Lagos State government.
In an interview with the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Father Anthony Godonu, the archbishop was particularly gladdened that the state government had raised the bar by allowing 50 per cent attendance which is an approvement on its earlier position which restricted attendance to 50 members.
“As a church, we had put measures in place in line with NCDC protocols for the re-opening of worship centres since June this year in all our parishes in the archdiocese in readiness for the benefit of our parishioners,” Rev. Father Godonu said, stressing that in view of the latest development the archdiocese can only finetune its earlier arrangement.
The chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Bishop Sola Ore has advised pastors in the state to reduce their emphasis on money as the churches plan to reopen.
In his reaction, Bishop Ore said it will be unfair for pastors to continue with the material gospel, noting that “the COVID-19 season has taught us to be less materialistic”
He noted that during the lockdown many were able to realize that our needs are not many. “If you have a wardrobe full of clothes, you soon realized that those clothes are not necessary because your moving around has been reduced. Many people had cars they could not use during the lockdown. If there is any lesson from the pandemic, it is that our needs are few.
“So church leaders should refrain from the temptation of putting financial pressure on their members. They should realize that people are just coming out of economic strangulation caused by the lockdown,” he said.
Rather he counselled that emphasis should be more on prayers. “Churches should spend a great deal of time praying for Nigeria and praying that God will intervene in the political and economic life of the country.
“There are so many things wrong with our nation. We should utilize the opportunity of gathering once again to pray so that those who say the church is all about money will having no ground to talk. People want to see our impact. I believe that the coming together of the church once again is a great opportunity for us to tell the world that we are indeed the salt of the earth.”
He said lockdown has been a time of great blessings and at the same time great loss for the Church. “There are blessings from the lockdown. We are able to know now that we don’t need all the magnificent structures we spend so much on. We are able to take advantage of the online forum to propagate the gospel. But at the same we missed fellowship. During the lockdown coming together in large number was not possible.
“There is a spiritual synergy when we come together. So, it’s a good thing churches are resuming. Churches that have people on their payroll also had to cut salaries or stop salary in some cases since money was not coming in again like before. But in all, we give thanks that we are coming back. It can only get better.”