Government’s green light for the re-opening of religious centres on Sunday, June 7, as part of efforts to ease COVID-19 restrictions, has divided opinion among churches; to open or not to.
Various church leaders and some Christians have thus expressed contrary views as to whether to resume church service soon or to wait awhile amid the barrage of guidelines to be observed during worship.
Checks and interviews by the Ghana News Agency revealed that a number of churches would not hold their communal service coming Sunday, June 7, or anytime soon, while others would open for service.
Many of the churches, including the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), The Makers House Chapel International, and the Seventh Day Adventists Church, had sent circulars and notices to their members on various social media platforms telling them to hold on for a while.
Pastor Dr Chris Annan-Nunoo, Executive Secretary, Southern Ghana Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SGUC), told the GNA that all SDA churches in the country had been directed to wait for two more weeks before they opened for service.
He said that decision, which was taken long before the Government announced the go-ahead for the churches to resume in-person services, would enable them to prepare adequately for services.
He said the church would rely on their television channel and home group meetings to reach out to their members with the gospel.
“We want to practice the one hour at our home groups level so that when we reopen and go to church, it will not be a new thing for us, ”adding that they would also use the period to put all the protocols in place and to educate members on the new parameters of worship.
The Most Reverend Paul Kwabena Boafo, Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church of Ghana, said the churches needed not to rush for in-person services but should rather put their facilities in order before reopening.
Dr Michael Boadi Nyamekye, the founder of The Makers House Chapel International, said his church would continue to remain closed till the protocols were a bit more relaxed and Ghana had minimal daily case count of COVID-19.
A circular to members via social media indicated that the Church had taken that decision based on its congregation size, number of services required, the health of the active players in a service, overhead cost, pressure on equipment and facility as well as the logistics to put in place, i.e, writing of names per service and submitting it to the authorities, among other COVID-19 protocols.
The ICGC, in its official communication, had directed its pastors and local assemblies not to open but run in-house church services until so advised by the presbytery.
The E. P. Church Kaneshie, the Banner of Grace Family Chapel International, and the Perez Chapel would also remain closed for some time to assess the situation.
However, other churches including the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Assemblies of God Church, and the Gospel Faith Ministry have indicated their readiness to officially commence services on June 7 in accordance with the Government’s directive, having indicated their willingness to abide by the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs.
The Most Reverend John Bonaventure Kwofie, Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, said the Church would officially begin its service on Sunday.
However, every parish priest must ensure strict adherence to all protocols and directives.
He also cautioned that any parish that did not put in place measures to protect members would be shut down.
The Presby Church’s Pastoral Letter, authored by its Moderator to the faithful, advised all the local Assemblies to take steps to fumigate their respective church buildings and surroundings before they opened for worship on Sunday.
Yet, the leadership of some churches the GNA spoke to said they were still holding meetings to see how best they could meet the guidelines on registration of congregants and manage the number limitations of 100 per service.
Meanwhile, some Christians have said they would definitely be in church on Sunday to fellowship.
They described government’s guidelines to the churches as too many, but added that their churches were capable of implementing them because “ the church is one of the most organised institutions in the world.”
Some, however, stated that they would want to wait for some time to ensure that they would be safe.
“I’m also scared of contracting the virus at church, for I will not know who has what because of the asymptomatic nature of the disease,” said Abena Amofa, a worshipper.
“I believe in God but I will wait till the figures take a nosedive,” said another believer.
In announcing the relaxation of restrictions, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo urged the churches to devote the June 7 service to praying for the nation.