May 17 was the day President George Weah recently told Christian worshippers they could resume their regular religious services after being dormant for over a month due to the state of emergency amid the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
The announcement came when many Christians had challenged the government’s mandate earlier by organizing crusades and prayer services in contravention of the social distancing and avoidance of large crowd protocols; some were even reportedly brutalized by the Liberia National Police for their intransigence.
Having waited a long time to hear when worship services will resume, the Christian community is welcoming the relaxation of the restriction on congregational gathering with mixed reactions; some churches are making use of the announcement to regather after a long prolonged wait while others are still skeptical to gather for the same health reasons for which church services were ordered to a halt.
Some churches in Paynesville on Sunday, May 17, 2020, celebrated and praised God for the reopening of worship services across Montserrado County following the closure on March 22 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Liberia.
All churches visited by the Daily Observer showed willingness to follow all of the preventive health measures by observing social distancing, wearing of face masks, regular hand-washing temperature testing of members at the entrance.
Apostle James Y. Komeh of the Christ Liberation Center told the Daily Observer that he feels delighted that the government had the second thought to reopen churches to have the intervention of God during the Fight against COVID-19.
Komeh strongly believes that with the doors of worship centers being opened by the government, the churches will seek God’s intervention and Liberia will be saved just as it was done during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
He said, “We used to have one service, but since the government has ordered reopening of churches and asked us to encourage social distancing, we are having two services today; one section beginning from 7:00-10:30, and the other from 11:00 to1:30.”
“We keep emphasizing that if you do not wear your face mask and wash your hands, you will not be allowed in the church because I just preached during the first service telling my members, ‘obey and live, or disobey and die.’ It is good for us children of God to obey what the government has said because they are next to God. We also tell them to stop hugging and keep by themselves for now,” he added.
Komeh said he has also written other Church leaders to follow the preventive health protocols and stop laying hands on sick people because the church should be a place of decreasing the virus not increasing it.
Apostle Daniel Seakor, head of the Living Faith Gospel Center who was also a part of the group of pastors of “Liberia against the Closure of Churches,” said the reopening of churches was not strange because he knew that the government could not succeed with the fight without God’s intervention.
Seakor who also disclosed that his church has two services said they (preachers) did not see any reason for closing churches because the opening of the churches provides more help to the government as members listen to their leaders more than the government.
“They close down churches because they feel that was the place many people gather, but they forgot that the Church has a very great reason for coming together and can also be used to carry out awareness among its members in as much as they listen to us than even the government,” he said.
According to him, during the time of Ebola churches were opened and that helped to stop the virus in a short space of time because the Church was instrumental in controlling the fear among citizens and helped increase awareness that kept the disease from spreading.
Members who were in attendance at the King City Church’s Sunday services expressed joy to be in the house of the Lord after a little over a month, and they promised to follow all the health protocols to fight the COVID-19.
Those members believe that with strong prayers they can invoke the presence of God to get Liberia become free of COVID-19.
While some churches are expressing delight of resuming worship services, there are still others who feel that this is not the best time to resume services because cases of the disease are still increasing and health experts have not given the greenlight for people to assemble.
The Providence Baptist Church has resolved that its door will remain closed until health experts advise that people should reassemble, or the environment is convincing that the disease is no longer prevalent. Lutheran Church of Liberia’s Bishop, Jensen Seyenkulo, had earlier appreciated the President for relaxing the restriction on congregational gathering but with skepticism because the order did not come from the health authorities and that he would wait for expert advice before reopening for worship services.
Reverend G. Larque Vaye of the Calvary Baptist Church also questioned why will the government close churches and social gathering when Liberia had 10 cases and now ordering churches to resume when the cases have exceeded 200. He, like Bishop Seyenkulo, said with advice from health experts they are waiting to resume services by the end of the month if cases will reduce.
The United Methodist Churches have been advised by their authority to wait till the first Sunday in June before resuming service, and the Catholic Church is also observing the situation until it sees the environment feasible for gathering before resuming.
Meanwhile, churches anxiously reopening have been viewed by critics as those with leaders whose income have diminished as offering and tithes are not flowing during the period of restriction as compared to the time of regular service.