Since the Coronavirus disease emerged in Liberia, some churches, prior to declaration of the National Health Emergency by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), took the decision to suspend congregational services in compliance with the avoidance of large gatherings.
Some churches that initially took the decision were the Providence Baptist Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Lutheran Church in Liberia.
However, since the Ministry of Health issued the declaration on the night of March 21, many Christians have raised discontentment that such was “an attack on [their] faith” and have in some cases vowed to resist the decision with their “sweat and blood.” Many churches have remained defiant to the health protocols and they are proceeding with organizing crusades and revivals, challenging the Police when they (Police) go to disperse crowds.
However, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), having discussed with health authorities and the Liberian Government, has conceded to suspend all congregational gatherings and to follow strictly the health protocols; something that those intransigent Christians are now expected to follow since their heads have instructed them.
LCC President, Bishop Kortu Brown in a release confirmed that church leaders have met and studied reasonably the health protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health and he NPHIL, and that they have agreed to observe the protocols and suspend church services for 21 days as the world fights the COVID-19.
The release quotes Bishop Brown as having said that after careful study of the situation by church leaders, the leaders agreed that “The churches have agreed to suspend worship services for the three Sundays laid down in the health emergency declaration by the Minister of Health. The three Sundays, according to the Ministry of Health 21-day declaration include March 22, March 29 and April 5, 2020.”
The LCC in an admonition called on Christians, especially pastors and prayer teams to remain in the attitude of prayer; work with the government to ensure awareness and promotion of preventive measures are carried out on the severity of the Coronavirus, and that churches in the remaining counties that are not declared “Most affected” open their doors to the public for worship and prayers, observing the health protocols that include regular hand-washing, avoidance of handshake, social distancing, and awareness on the virus.
The agreement leading to suspension of services also obligates the government to inform its local authorities and the Police not to use the health emergency as a condition to frighten those churches in areas outside Montserrado and Margibi Counties that are the “Most affected” counties. In furtherance, the churches with consent of their leaders are to abide by the protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia supported by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.
“We are looking forward to a strong partnership with the Government of Liberia in ensuring public safety including avoiding large gatherings at the church and in all sectors until this pandemic is defeated in Liberia,” Bishop Brown said in the release.
Since the declaration by the MOH for religious gatherings to be suspended to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, only the Muslim Community has earnestly observed this aspect of the protocols by avoiding large gathering. Apparently their obedience stems from the experience of the 2014 Ebola crisis that caused deaths among them in mass due to traditional practices.