COVID-19 scare: Church crossover services disrupted

*FG’s midnight curfew still in place

*Obey states’ orders, CAN tells xtians

*Churches adjust programmes

By Daniel Tyokua

There were clear indications on Wednesday that the conventional Christians’ crossover church services to herald New Year would be disrupted in Nigeria in one form or the other as a result of the ravaging impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. While some of the services might not last till few minutes into 2021 as was the practice before COVID-19, the usual crowded fellowship and outbursts of excitement would be lacking and yet, many faithful would have to make do with virtual services from their homes. Already, there were different directives from different state governments on either outright ban on the service or how it would be adjusted to prevent the spread of the virus.

Already, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Living Faith Church Worldwide have backed down on their insistence to hold Crossover services in churches this night.

They said the adjustments in their programmes was to ensure that none of their members violates the 12 midnight – 4am curfew imposed by the Federal Government as part of measures to contain COVID-19 spread.

The CAN National President Rev. Samson Ayokunle advised state chapters to adhere strictly to directives by relevant government authorities on the crossover night service.

Ayokunle said the Christians umbrella body agreed with government’s ban on watchnight (crossover) service which usually heralds New Year.

It said the service, which normally extends to 12am on the first day of the year, should not hold, so that Christians can maintain a strict adherence to COVID-19, protocols.

“There is no sacrifice that is too much to put an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in the interest of all and sundry,” Ayokunle said in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.

According to the statement, Ondo State government had already vowed to prosecute any church leader that may violate its ban on the midnight service.

However, in Lagos State, the local chapter of CAN and the state government agreed that services should end by 11pm tomorrow.

In a memo to all parishes signed by its Assistant General Overseer (AGO) in charge of Admin/Personnel, Pastor Johnson Odesola, the RCCG said it will do live streaming of the Crossover Service tomorrow night.

It urged members to link up virtually on Dove Television and other on-line platform.

The January 8 Holy Ghost Service (HGS) will also be conducted by the General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, virtually, Odesola said in the memo.

According to him, the mission took the decision in compliance with the government’s directive.

It was also learnt that Winners’ Chapel service and Bishop David Oyedpo’s sermon scheduled to kick-off from 6pm tomorrow, will be streamed live and viewed by members at all viewing centres affiliated to the church.

Winners’ Chapel will stream, he said: “Where the government places an embargo on the Crossover Night service, churches may meet earlier to praise and give God praises for the gift of life despite the pandemic and to place their requests for 2021 before God.

Ayokunle, who urged Christian leaders to cooperate with the government, said the directive was understandable. “We understand the unfortunate state COVID-19 infection has put everybody world over, which caused some state governments to place total ban on crossover night service and we are not happy that we would not be able to enter into the New Year prayerfully in joint fellowship with our brothers and sisters.

“We, however, urge you all to abide by the directives of each state government on this so as to prevent the spread of the infection. One thing that is certain is that, the end of COVID-19 is here at last in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ.

FCT asks churches to obey covid-19 directives

Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has urged churches in the territory to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols as they prepare for the crossover night service.

Head, Media and Public Enlightenment of FCT COVID-19 Task Force, Mr Ikharo Attah, gave the advice on Wednesday at a news conference in Abuja.

Attah urged church leaders to obey the government’s directives to avert the spread of COVID-19.

He warned that a combined team of the task force will go round the city to monitor compliance during the services.

Attah stressed the need for worshippers to support the decision of the government that would promote the progress and development of the territory.

“As enforcement team that takes directive from the FCT Minister Malam Muhammad Bello and the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, we are working in collaboration with leaders of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at all levels and league of Imams.

“We have discussed with religious leaders the need to obey the COVID-19 protocols, so all those who will be engaging in crossover night worship service must adhere strictly to the guidelines.

“They should put on their face mask, provide a washing hand basin as well as keep physical distancing,” he said.

Attah, who said that worship centres should not be overcrowded, asked worshippers to join the programme through online platforms.

“For those who will not comply, we will not overlook them jeopardise the lives of others, those that fail to comply will be brought before the court for prosecution.

“Again, the centre where the protocol is flouted will be shut.

“We appeal to religious leaders and the worshippers to obey the COVID-19 protocols.”

Attah insisted that any worship centre found contravening the COVID-19 protocols would be made to face the wrath of the law.

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