Following broad consultations with stakeholders in the country, the government, last Sunday, announced that religious bodies could start services this weekend, but some churches have decided to remain closed.
Among them are the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Perez Chapel International, and the Maker’s Chapel International, which have told their congregations not to attend church service.
In a statement, the ICGC said the Presbytery has studied the directives issued by the government, but has decided that “no ICGC local assembly shall be opened to run in-person church services until so advised by the Presbytery.”
It continued that “all ICGC local assemblies will continue to fellowship together on air and on-line, as we join the General Overseer on Sundays for services, as we do.”
Signed by the General Secretary of the church, Rev. Morris Appiah, the statement continued that “the church will use the month of June to assess, monitor and evaluate all protocols in simulation exercises with selected local assemblies in various districts. This will enable us to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of the protocols throughout our churches nationwide.”
The release further noted that the Presbytery would issue clear instructions on the next steps to be followed by the church, depending on the outcomes of the above.
It added that the church would issue, at the appropriate time, instructions on the phased re-opening of local assemblies, which would be informed by the trend of the virus infections countrywide.
Also, the reports on the spread of the virus in districts where ICGC local assemblies are located, as well as the preparedness of local assemblies in various districts to run church services, would inform the decision to re-open.
Similarly, the leadership of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) has said it will continue to do virtual services and keep all its churches closed to the congregation despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions by President Nana Akufo-Addo for religious gatherings with not more than 100 people.
A statement signed by Rev. Morris Appiah, General Secretary, said: “No ICGC local assembly shall be open to run in-person church services until so advised by the Presbytery”.
Additionally, it noted: “All ICGC local assemblies will continue to fellowship together on-air and online as we join the General Overseer on Sunday for services as we do now.”
“We are mindful of the need for our congregations to gather and worship freely and openly. However, the current situation demands that we also consider the health and safety of all congregants. I entreat you all to keep praying fervently for the church, Ghana, and the nations. I’m convinced we’ll come out of this better and stronger,” the statement added.
Another church, Destiny Empowerment Chapel International, in a statement to suspend church gatherings after the President had announced services could go on, said there is only one life to live, which is more precious and priceless than gold.
It has since asked its congregation not to hurry their lives into death or destruction, but rather take time and allow things “to cool down before we engage ourselves with any social gatherings.”
The Senior Pastor of the church who signed the statement, Dr Bernard Taylor, said there are many years ahead, and church will always be there for the congregation to worship in. However, what matters, he said, is “we need life to serve our God. Let’s not downplay wisdom and spirituality.”
“On that note, as the Founder and General Overseer of Destiny Empowerment Chapel International, I state categorically that all our church services remain virtual until further notice,” he concluded.
The Perez Chapel International, in a statement, encouraged its members to “continue worshipping with us virtually on Precious TV, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter on Bishop Charles Agyinasare’s social media handles and Perez Dome’s handles.”
However, “All our branches in Ghana with relatively smaller congregation sizes will remain open, and will comply with all the protocols mentioned by the President of the Republic,” the statement said.
In a statement on Monday, the Head Pastor for Makers House Chapel, Dr. Michael Boadi Nyamekye, said they remain closed until the restrictions are eased further due to their numbers.
“Looking at our congregation size, number of services required, health of the active players in a service, overhead cost, pressure on equipment and facility, The logistics to put in place, i.e., writing of names per service, and submitting it to the authorities, all the COVID-19 protocols.
“I deem it fit to announce to you that TMH (Destiny Arena) will remain closed for some time until we have clarity and the sanctions relaxed some more. I will entreat all of you to bear the church and its membership in prayer,” he said in a statement.
Minister issues guidelines for churches, mosques
Meanwhile, the Minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Samuel Kofi Dzamesi, has given details on a government plan for the reopening of places of worship across the country.
According to the guidelines, every church or religious body is to register with the Registrar General’s Department and with the respective Metropolitan, Municipal or District Assemblies.
Also, the religious bodies are expected to observe preventive protocols, including providing thermometer guns or thermal scanners to check the temperature of congregants at entry points of all venues.
Again, the religious bodies must enforce a ‘No Mask: No Entry’ policy, provide adequate waste management facilities, and toilet facilities for use by members.
“Cleaning and disinfection of frequently used communal places like toilet surfaces, and frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs or handles, preferably every one – two hours depending on the rate of utilisation.
“A holding room or area where a person who becomes sick at the premises can be isolated from others while making arrangements for evacuation,” he announced.
Further, every worshiper must be registered with their details, including names, phone numbers, manually or digitally, among other guidelines.
Religious leaders would equally be held liable, adding that the District Assemblies and other agencies will monitor and ensure compliance with the directives.
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