In the past two years that I have been at the ‘360 Hostel’ in Osu I have always dreaded two days – Fridays and Sundays.
Sundays because the incessant clanging of cymbals, exuberant drumming and dancing and boisterous singing from a church literally behind my window makes my stay in my little dormitory a torture. And Fridays because the evenings are more or less a prelude to Sunday’s experiences. It has been a difficult experience.
I myself love church. I pray often and I am sure I sing louder than the members of the church behind my hostel when I go to my own church, but I can’t help but question why the church behind hostel has mounted large speakers that reverberate through the walls of all houses close to it. I question why this should be acceptable.
To cap my frustration on Sundays and Fridays is how the compound of my hostel turns into a walkway for members of this church – constantly milling through my front door and chatting away as they make their way to the church.
These experiences have turned me into a philosopher. I am constantly having to think deep to justify why I must endure this torture on grounds that I too go to church on Sundays and Fridays.
Well, my deep thinking has yielded no epiphany about why it is okay for me to get a headache on Sundays – usually the whole day – and on Friday evenings. In fact, these past few weeks I have had absolute peace of mind. There is no church service. Coronavirus and the subsequent ban on public gatherings have ensured that.
So now I have channelled my deep thinking into interrogating something else: how is the Christian community taking this whole ban on church activities? I can think all I want about this question and come up with an answer. But whatever answer I come up with will be nothing compared to speaking to a cross-section of Christians.
Luckily, they are in abundance at my hostel so I got my notebook, my pen and my recorder – basically my phone – and got to work.
My expedition began with Pastor Isaac-Eric Eshun, head pastor and General Overseer of Works of God Miraculous Worship Centre who said in his past 25 years of administering the word of God and over fifty years of being a child of God, he has never experienced a ban on church activities.
He couldn’t hold back his frustrations.
“I see this as an attack on Christianity or the body of Christ because the devil is trying to take advantage of what is happening [that is the Covid-19] to make sure that the gathering of God’s children does not happen.
“If you read the book of Isaiah you realize that there are prophecies about some of these things. Isaiah prophesied about diseases that have no cure and you realise this is one of them. What I’m worried about is the older generation; especially those who are not educated and those who are not technologically inclined. I just don’t know how they can cope with this online thing.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Dennis Boateng, Founder and Head Pastor of True Kingdom and Faith Ministries sees the ban differently.
He, unlike Pastor Eric, thinks this is a blessing rather than a misfortune to the Kingdom of God.
He says this is a defeat and a big blow to the enemy.
Although he admitted that in his past twelve years of being a minister of the word of God and in his entire life of being a Christian, he has also never heard of a ban on church service, he believes the current situation presents a new strategy to bring God’s children together.
“I was a bit shaky initially when I heard that Churches were to close down and I also thought it was an attack on Christianity but later I realized it was for the benefit of every citizen.
“The virus is very contagious and spreads from person to person so ignoring the President’s order and going ahead with service will only mean that the virus will keep spreading and spreading. So we had to adopt another strategy; online service.”
According to him, adopting an online church service was not difficult because the church had started doing that already.
He shared how effective and progressive service has been online.
“Service has been good – to me. For the past few weeks of virtual meeting, we have been able to reach a lot of souls. It started on WhatsApp and later we moved everybody to facebook where people liked and share the video. Within thirty to thirty-five minutes we were able to reach over 500 people and at the end of that first Sunday over 7,400 people watched and liked the video. It happened on subsequent Sundays too. People came around online watched the videos, liked them and shared them with their friends who also liked and shared the videos with their friends who also watched liked and shared.
“The enemy thought he was scattering us but he never knew he was actually bringing us together. If he knew crucifying Christ would have brought redemption I don’t think he would have done that. It also has taught us a lesson; that whatever situation that we find ourselves, we need to learn to adjust and take advantage of them. Like I said, it’s going to be a great impact.”
The ban on church service has not only affected the heads of the churches or the pastors but it also has had an impact on Christians as well.
Francis Mensah, a member of the True Ways of God Church, said he is bothered because the lockdown will negatively affect his mode of worship.
“I’ll miss how we shake each other after we share the grace and how our Pastor asks us to give each other a hug before his sermon starts. And especially when the Pastor asks us to turn to our neighbour and repeat something he says to us to them. That will no longer be possible.”
Even festivities will be disrupted. From the look of things, Easter will be trashed. Christmas will equally be messy if things remain this way.
Some pastors are concerned about the impact the ban on church service will have on the coffers of the church.
“Since this whole Coronavirus issue came about, you know how things have been. No one goes out and no one comes in; you know what I mean by this, no one goes to work. So the economic impact is greatly negative. Someone will say that since it’s an online meeting there’s no need to pay offering but let’s face the reality on the ground, even the data we use to communicate and share videos and all of that, it is money that was used in purchasing the data. We have asked members to send their offering through mobile money but that hasn’t been effective either”, Pastor Stephen laments.
But will coronavirus really be the reason why ‘people will forget their God?”
As I bring my thoughts to an end, I leave you with this question: will coronavirus be a reason why many churches will collapse and many souls will be lost, or will it rather draw more souls to God?