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‘The Church has grown since lockdown’

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As Lagos and Ogun State Government announced the reopening of churches on August 9 and 14 respectively, The Coordinator of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Ikeja Central Province, Pastor Tope Illesanmi speaks on the post COVID-19 changes and worshippers reaction to the recent reopening of worship centres in Lagos. Excerpts by Adeola Ogunlade

Churches in Lagos reopen on Sunday 9 August; however, worshippers have complained about the inconveniences of wearing face mask. What can be done about this?

We give praise to God for the eventual reopening of churches in Lagos State. Kudos to our amiable state leaders of CAN for their relentless engagement with the state government. The use of Mask was quite a big discomfort,  but the joy of fellowshipping with brethren you haven’t seen for over four months doused the effect of that discomfort. Surprisingly, not all churches reopened on August 9. Some churches took time to prepare for a comeback service in grand style the following Sunday. Some are even yet to reopen.

Similarly, some are also saying the guidelines and restrictions is taking away their freedom to worship; is the church losing its freedom to worship?

Let’s learn from the wisdom applied by some churches in Ikeja. A lot of churches in Ikeja Province went beyond  fumigation, hand washing, sanitizing and nose mask to purchase sizeable Fog Atomizing Sanitizing Machine. With this machine, and the recommended chemical, no virus, germs, bacteria can survive in such a Church. Hence, use of masks was irrelevant until after service when Congregants were returning home. The freedom and enthusiasm of Worship is also made possible. However, some restrictions actually implied infringement on the right of Worship.

As expected, compliance level was high in the city centre; can we hold same for rural churches?

Thank God for the compliance level in the city. If the government got no compliance in the rural areas, then it’s her fault. Because, there is little or no presence of compliance force in those places.

What lessons have you taken from the  lockdown?

The bible says in Acts 8:1-8 and I quote: “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the  church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all  scattered throughout the regions of Judea and  Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men  carried Stephen to his burial, and made great  lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering  every house, and dragging off men and women,  committing them to prison.   Christ Is Preached in Samaria. Therefore those who were scattered went  everywhere preaching the word.  Then Philip went  down to the a city of Samaria and preached Christ to  them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the  things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the  miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying  with a loud voice, came out of many who were  possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame  were healed. And there was great joy in the city”

Whatever happens, Nigerians will navigate through. Necessity is the mother of invention. Some people in authority seems to be fiddling with the church, but I assure them that their payback time is near except they repent. King Herod tried it, he was eaten by maggots! Persecution is the strength of the Church, so the Church has grown higher than where she was before the lockdown.

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