Providence Baptist, UMC Liberia lead the way
The Resident Bishop of United Methodist Church of Liberia, Rev. Dr Samuel J. Quire, has announced the suspension of all church activities across the country in a bid to support the Government of Liberia’s efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The rare and fast move by the UMC has been reinforced by Rev. Samuel Reeves, Jr., Senior Pastor of the Providence Baptist Church, who has also declared all church activities suspended for one week.
While there have been only two cases of the coronavirus in Liberia, and no death yet, the move by the two churches particular UMC, came just a few days after members of it large branches came in contact with a suspected carrier of the coronavirus, who was eventually tested negative.
So far, the virus has infected more than 185,000 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS coronavirus, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
It symptoms most common ones are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, according to the US Center for Disease Control. Currently in West Africa only Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Mali, Niger – are uninfected.
What in the UMCL, Providence Baptist Church Suspension?
On Monday, March 16, the morning President George M. Weah took to the airwaves bearing the dire news of Liberia’s first Coronavirus case, the First United Methodist church was getting ready to celebrate the 211th birth anniversary of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberia’s first President and founder of the J.J. Roberts Educational Foundation. The celebration which is held annually, brings together hundreds of students, educators and dignitaries to celebrate the one and only President of Liberia who bequeathed his entire estate for the purpose fo educating Liberian children.
Providence Baptist Church, also known as “the cornerstone of the nation”, is another historic religious and national institution. Liberia’s Declaration of Independence was signed in its original sanctuary and it was there that the national flag was made. Providence Baptist is currently making preparations for a grand celebration of its bicentennial (200th anniversary), slated for February through March 2021.
Activities suspended by both churches include but are not limited to worship service, revival, bible study, prayer meeting, choir practice among others, except pastors meetings.
The suspended activities, particular Worship service on Sunday, is a cherished day within the Liberia Christian community and even during a crisis like the civil war and Ebola, church activities were not suspended.
But in recent days, the public has joined the government to appeal for the cancellation of all mass gatherings for time indefinite in a bid to stop the two cases in the country from spreading.
“In an effort to buttress the Ministry of Health measures in curtailing the coronavirus named COVID 19, the Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Liberia Episcopal Area, has suspended with immediate effect all church activities,” the UMCL said in a press release. “Activities Bishop Quire suspended include but not limited to worship service, revival, bible study, prayer meeting, choir practice among others.”
According to the United Methodist Bishop, “members are encouraged to stay home and read their Bibles and pray and observe the safety measures put placed by the health authority.”
As for Rev. Samuel Reeves, he said the suspension of all Providence Baptist Church activities will only last from now to March 24, but might be extended if the situation gets worse.
“In keeping with the international measures of social distancing, which is a standard protocol to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus—and to keep God people safe, the Providence Baptist Church will be shut down for a week,” he said.
According to Rev. Reeves, church service during the week of the shutdown will be conducted through live stream.