The leadership of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) has said it will continue to do virtual services and keep all its churches closed to the congregation despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions by President Nana Akufo-Addo for religious gatherings with not more than 100 people.
A statement signed by Rev. Morris Appiah, General Secretary, said: “No ICGC local assembly shall be open to run in-person church services until so advised by the Presbytery”.
Additionally, it noted: “All ICGC local assemblies will continue to fellowship together on-air and online as we join the General Overseer on Sunday for services as we do now”.
“We are mindful of the need for our congregations to gather and worship freely and openly. However, the current situation demands that we also consider the health and safety of all congregants. I entreat you all to keep praying fervently for the church, Ghana and the nations. I’m convinced we’ll come out of this better and stronger”, the statement added.
A few weeks ago,Pastor Otabil urged his fellow Christian clerics to be patient until the time that it is safe for churches to gather and fellowship as they used to prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
In his virtual service on Sunday, 10 May 2020, the founder of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) said: “Well, as you know, our world is going through some interesting days; the last few months from January, especially for us in Ghana, from March, have been extraordinary months as we have sought to mitigate the effect of this rampaging virus that is attacking men and women indiscriminately and just when we thought in Ghana that we were having control over the situation, we are beginning to realise that the virus has a mind of its own and doesn’t seem to correspond to some of the efforts we are making, so, it looks like things are getting a little uncomfortable for all of us”.
“Definitely”, he added: “It also means this is not the time for churches to consider gathering together in assemblies because the crisis before us is not going down and it’s important that as churches, we play our role in protecting society, which is made up of our members and ourselves as pastors, as part of society, and we trust that we will endure the arrangement as it is now.
“It may seem uncomfortable, it may not be suitable to us but that is the price we pay for making the world a better place and I trust that each one of us will be patient and wait till we can safely gather, not gather under Marshall law but safely gather and safely worship and have fellowship together as a church and I trust that day will come very quickly but if it tarries, we will wait for that day so that we can gather together as God’s people, not in an atmosphere of uncertainty but in an atmosphere of certainty of faith and trust in the Lord”, he said.
Dr Otabil’s admonition came a few days after some Christian leaders forwarded a tall list of measures they intended putting in place in their churches to mitigate the spread of the virus as they pushed the government to lift the ban on social gathering.
ICGC is not the only church to have opted to still remain closed despite the relaxation of the restrictions.
The first church to announce its decision to remain closed was Destiny Empowerment Chapel Internationa, whose General Overseer, Dr Bernard Taylor, told his congregants that all church services remain virtual despite the government lifting the ban on church services in the country.
In a statement, Dr Taylor said: “We have so many years ahead of us. Church will always be there for us to worship in as Christians. What matters is we need life to serve our God. Let’s not downplay wisdom and spirituality”.
“We have our future and that of our children to protect. Let’s not die prematurely as a result of ignorance,” Dr Taylor advised.
Also, The Maker’s House,(TMH), Destiny Arena, announced on Monday that it will remain closed until sanctions on public gathering and worship are relaxed “some more.”
A statement by the Head Pastor of TMH, Michael Boadi Nyamekye, said the church will remain closed although churches are allowed to meet for an hour with not more than 100 people, considering its “congregation size, number of services required, health of the active players in a service and overhead cost, pressure on equipment and facility and the logistics to put in place i.e. writing of names per service and submitting it to the authorities, all the COVID-19 protocols.”
“I deem it fit to announce to you that TMH (Destiny Arena) will remain closed for some time until we have clarity and the sanctions relaxed some more,” the head pastor noted.
Dr Boadi Nyamekye also entreated Christians to “bear the church and its membership in prayer”.
“Hopefully, this gets over soon so we can meet and hug again.” Meanwhile, churches and Christians who wish to fellowship following the President’s easing of restrictions on social gathering, can only do so under some strict guidelines, including ensuring that offerings are given wirelessly through electronic means such as Mobile Money and e-banking systems, the Minister of Religious Affairs has said among other at a press conference on Monday, 1 June 2020.
Read the full guidelines below:
Churches are to ensure a No-handshake, No-hugging and No-Spitting policy at all time.
No crowded dancing and waving of handkerchiefs during church services. Microphones are to be sanitised immediately after each use.
All persons who speak or sing in churches must wear facemask during service.
Churches are to discourage singing in groups and instead use pre-recorded songs.
Pre-packaged communion bread and wine should be picked up by members at the point of entry. Place offering bowls at the entrance and exit points for members to give offerings and tithes when entering or on their way out of church premises. Encourage cash transfers via mobile money or mobile banking as forms of giving offerings.
In observance of social-distancing protocols, laying-on of hands should not be allowed.