As We Go Back to Places of Worship – The Pandemic in Mind
After nearly two months of near-total lock-down, state governments are gradually easing restrictions on movement and gatherings as they deem it fit. This is NOT unexpected as the government of the day obviously does not have the requisite requirements to keep its citizens indoors over the period the curve is projected to flatten.
With epileptic power supply (thus necessitating purchase of fuel) and, chiefly, the prevailing proliferation of poverty across the country, it was only a matter of time before the restrictions are lifted. Or how else do you expect a population made of about 70% informal workforce to survive the lock-down? Most of these informal workers rely on what they earn daily to feed themselves and their family members. And with the government’s inability to provide the needed palliative to the most affected and vulnerable households (despite the huge figures being reported by the humanitarian minister and her ilks), you would expect the people’s cry to mount considerable fear in the appropriate quarters.
Knowing full well that even with the ‘total’ lock-down pronouncement earlier imposed by the president, there was no total compliance; the gradual easing of lock-down that was declared at a later date expressly returned Nigerians back to their normal lives. It took just one day for reports of non-compliance to rent the air as people who had been longing for ‘freedom’ flooded the streets without care for the guidelines that ordered them back to the streets.
The lifting of restrictions saw non-essential service providers resume their businesses (some never went on break anyway), which made some religious leaders and custodians of faith call for their worship centres to be open for gathering (or patronage if you see it as such).
Many leaders of faith began to draw comparism with markets, saying if markets could be open, churches should be given the same treatment. They opined (perhaps rightly so) that the market is not as orderly as the church. They however failed to admit that markets provide essential services whilst worship centres do not. One can pray and worship his or her God/gods in one’s closet, but there are a lot of things that one cannot do in one’s home unless the market renders such service. That is why markets are tagged essential service providers.
The crusaders of open church have had their voices strengthened as the US president – Donald Trump – yesterday designated places of worship as essentials. One could see religious leaders bask in the euphoria of triumph. Of little concern to them is the fact that by designating worship centres as essentials, educational institutions would equally pose a fair shout at opening their study centres, especially in developing countries like Nigeria where online learning is not viable and effective.
But be that as it may, the reality on ground is that worship centres in the country may soon have their doors welcome their faithful to experience corporate worship and perhaps move back to the previous norm; which is why it is imperative that we take caution.
Expectedly, focus will shift to how leaders of faith organize their members vız provision of soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, floor cleaning ingredients and fumigation equipment. These without doubt should be reasonably available in most churches with large congregation as funds won’t be an issue for them. Even churches with smaller congregation should be able to provide those as well.
The big issue would be paying attention to what may be tagged ‘tiny details’ such as sharing of microphones, money handling, to mention but two. Of much concern would be how worship centres deal with their children and teenagers who are wont to be careless, which I believe is the main reason schools have not resumed yet.
Churches, mosques and synagogues should ensure that microphones are provided in their numbers; and in situations where they are not able to do so, effective means of sanitizing these gadgets should be put in place. Dr Sanjay Gumpta of the CNN once counseled that each of us should act as though we have the virus by taking necessary precautions and observing stipulated guidelines.
It now appears that the best immune system wins is the last resort of states and nations but Nigeria cannot afford to overwhelm her hospitals as the capacity is lacking, and in most cases, defective.
As you go out to worship corporately, keep an eye (both eyes if possible) on your children/wards – I would rather you kept them in the safety of your house though –, avoid sharing gadgets, and be intentional in your handling of money. You do these to protect yourself and your co-faithfuls from starting a new wave of spread, which might bring the organization or the body you belong to into a state of disrepute.
Remember, the views would differ if worship centres were to be responsible for a surge in infection rate as opposed to markets or other ESSENTIAL service providers. Be intentional with your hygiene and stay safe. May thy immune system serve thee well.
Adekanmi Olutomi Israel
‘Tomi Israel Adekanmi is a passionate teacher, who adopts unconventional methods to impart knowledge to his learners. He is ‘closet’ essayist, political observer and a football fan.
He writes from Asaba where he teaches.
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