Many churches in Lagos, yesterday, witnessed low turnout on the first Sunday of reopening after 20 weeks of lockdown owing to COVID- 19 pandemic. Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu had, on Saturday, August 1, 2020 relaxed some of the lockdown measures instituted by the Lagos State Government to combat the spread of the pandemic.
Following the decline in COVID-19 positive cases, Sanwo-Olu, in his 17th briefing on COVID-19 response, directed the re-opening of places of worship in the state, starting from August 7 for mosques and August 9 for churches.
In March 2020, part of the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 was that the Lagos State government announced various lockdown measures and ban on public gatherings. Initially, with 11 confirmed cases, the state government ordered schools to shut down and banned public gatherings of over 50 people, particularly religious congregations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who visited St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Yaba, Lagos, reports that Masses were held at five different centres simultaneously.
The parishioners complied with COVID-19 protocols such as wearing of face masks, observing social distancing and others. Rev. Fr. Charles Onwordi, in one of the Mass centres, welcomed the parishioners with a Homily entitled: “Fear not, cry out to God for an end to this pandemic.”
Onwordi, who spoke after the Mass, said that COVID-19 pandemic was an experience to draw the world closer to God. He said: “We are happy to have our people back and pray for those who lost their lives to the pandemic that they would rest in peace.
“We advise our members to always abide by COVID-19 guidelines so that we will stop the spread of the pandemic and pray for an end to it.”
A parishioner at the church, Mr. David Okonkwo, thanked God for His mercies that he witnessed the first Sunday of the reopening of churches in the state after 20 weeks of lockdown. At the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Power House, Shomolu, there was also a low turnout, but the members thanked God for sparing their lives.
The Pastor-in-Charge, who identified himself simply as Hassan, said that it was wonderful having the members back because many had died due to complications from the pandemic. He said: “I pray that many souls will be drawn to God because their survival is not by power.”
At the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Muniru Baruwa Street, Surulere, the church had yet to reopen for members to attend services. A member there said services were still being conducted online, but that preparations were in top gear for physical services to start soon.
He said the church premises were fumigated and disinfected on Saturday; adding that other preparations in line with COVID-19 protocols would continue during the week.
Some other churches visited observed the COVID-19 protocols as all members were seen wearing their face masks.
There were taps with running water at strategic points as well as hand sanitizers, soaps and infrared thermometers to check the temperatures of the faithful at the entrance of the churches.
Churches in FESTAC Town in Amuwo Odofin area of Lagos State complied with the COVID-19 protocols as they resumed worship. Automated hand wash units and hand sanitizer dispensers, soaps, water and infrared thermometers were provided by many of the churches.
Also, big banners “No Mask, No Entry” were posted at the doors to prevent worshippers without face masks from entering the church premises.
Social distancing was observed by worshippers with stickers bearing “Do Not Sit” placed on intervening seats to create spaces.
At the Living Faith Church, aka Winners Chapel, Dominion Centre, in FESTAC Town, the Provincial Head, Pastor Alex Aina, said worshippers were excited to resume and, therefore, complied with the guidelines. Aina said that the church had installed 15 automated hand washing units with soap and automated hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance and within the church premises.
He said: “Everyone has been cooperative; you can see them with their face masks on.”
The cleric praised the church leadership for providing hand sanitizers and soaps to ensure there would be no shortfall of the provisions.
At the RCCG, Kings Royal Palace at FESTAC Town, Pastor Abiodun Oseni said messages had earlier been sent to members through the church media platforms informing them of the protocols.
Oseni, who is also the Assistant Pastor, said: “Also, at the beginning of each service, a message is projected to inform everyone of the protocols. “Nobody comes in without a face mask. When the service is on, everyone wears theirs and those who use face shields are to also use masks.
“After each service, there’s a decontamination of the hall by the C-19 Squad before the next one commences.”
A check on churches around Berger, Ojodu and Ogba areas of Lagos showed that many faithful were still held back, while the churches that had services ensured strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
At The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Solid Rock Parish, Ojodu Berger, Sunday services had already commenced at about 8a.m. with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols ensured.
During the service, members sat at a social distance within themselves, while the use of public address system was minimized. Also, at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Livingstone Assembly, Ojodu, worshippers were seen stopped at the gate where their temperatures were taken and some hand washing equipment provided.
The Zoe Ministry Worldwide, Favour Arena, Budland Estate in Akiode had already concluded the Sunday Services as at 11:30a.m., but a pastor who spoke under anonymity confirmed low turnout of church members.
“We are happy that the churches are now allowed to open, the members are also happy with the development; for today, attendance was encouraging.
“As time goes on, many who did not come today will have less doubt and will come around because we are just starting,” he said. Pastor Sejiro Oluwasegun of the Christ Livingspring Apostle Ministry, (CLAM), Ogba, Lagos, told NAN that members of the church were in good spirit at the first meeting after the lockdown.
“Our members are happy that services are back, although not all services, but at least Sunday services. The fact that we can come together on Sunday to fellowship is a good development.
“The number of worshippers is quite encouraging, but there will always be a first time to everything, subsequent services may witness more turnout as we were just about 20 per cent of our previous attendance,” he said.
At the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), City of God Cathedral, where Cardinal James Odunmbaku presides at Akiode, Lagos, strict COVID-19 protocols were observed as members queued to take their turn to be screened.
Worshippers were sanitized with an electronic spray stationed at the entrance before being allowed to go into the auditorium with notice about the COVID- 19 guidelines pasted strategically on the walls of the church.
The Head of Administration of the Celestial Church, Rev. Olasupo Ajayi JP, told NAN that the security and enforcement of the COVID- 19 protocols were uppermost in the minds of the church hierarchy.
“Those that were above 60 and the ones below 15 have been advised to stay at home, while we have equally sent short messages (SMS) to our members to ensure compliance.
“We have to also suspend the Sunday School today because of the limited time we have since the populations has been put to only 50 per cent of our attendance,” he said.