On Saturday night, March 21, the health authorities in Liberia made a declaration putting stringent measures in place to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), which three cases have been confirmed in Liberia but raging in other countries including Italy.
One of the measures involves the suspension of church services to conform to the regulation of avoidance of public gathering as contained in the health protocols, even though some churches (Providence Baptist, Lutheran Church in Liberia, United Methodist Liberia Convention) had already taken such a decision earlier to suspend services until otherwise.
However, this decision is seen by some Christians in Liberia as counterproductive to their faith and religion they believe the government should not tamper with. “Why must they come out to stop the word of God? They want to tell me that virus get more power than God? If virus will kill you it will kill you; I don’t care what happens,” a woman on a taxi heading to Sinkor from 72nd said.
Another woman, who claimed to be a member of the Baptist denomination, complained, “But our people don’t want us go to church for virus business but they want us send our offerings and tithes through mobile money.”
One of the oldest churches, Calvary Baptist, on the Tubman Boulevard, has a system of democracy that members have to vote on decisions that will affect the church.
In this regard, the senior clergy, Reverend G. Larque Vaye, read the declaration to the church and emphasized that having service following the declaration was not intentional, but was due to the fact that the information came during the night hours of Saturday and not many people were able to receive it to stay away.
“We are here not because we want to disobey the government, but because some members did not get the information and have to come to church. So, we came to finally tell the church to make its decision in line with our rules as Baptist,” said Rev. Vaye.
Prior to voting to make the decision to suspend services, the Baptist prelate said: “We Christians should be law abiding and always be the first to obey rules.”
Not many people were in the church on Sunday, the day the declaration came into force, and those who voted to make the decision won with 33 in majority.
The decision by the majority members to suspend service, however, left others with discontentment. “We will still encounter people on cars and kehkeh. What is the essence of not having service?” a member commented.
Although the decision was made, most of the members contended that church service should continue but with a skeleton membership and that, at least 50 persons will go to church on Wednesday and Sunday to keep the word of God preached and members in prayer. However, this suggestion was defeated.
While in the church to make the decision, a senior police officer walked in the corridor and asked that the service be cutoff immediately as the declaration was already in force. He however reasoned with the church’s leadership to allow the members conclude the reading of the declaration and pray to depart.
Before the late afternoon on Sunday, police officers were all around the city asking church leaders to halt their services to abide by the emergency declaration by the Ministry of Health.
Rev. Vaye then urged members to remain law abiding and observe the health protocols, cautioning them not to live with denial as Ebola memories ring with the coming of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, social media posts have also be inundated with mixed messages over the decision taken to restrict movements affecting the church activities.
Several posts from Christian believers depict that the government is proceeding wrongly by telling churches to shut down services when Christians are the ones to pray to God.
Other comments also debunk reservations raised by people about suspending church services, noting that “The church is not the building but the individuals, and people can still worship God in the safety of their homes.
Unlike the Christians who are raising qualm about suspension of service, there has been no indication of Muslims expressing dissatisfaction with the national health emergency declaration. It may be recalled that in 2014, a lot of Muslims died from the Ebola due to traditional practices.