Liberia: Council of Churches Announces Suspension of Sunday Service in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

Monrovia — Nearly a week after Senator Prince Y. Johnson rejected attempts by the Inspector General of Police to shutdown worship at his Chapel of Faith Ministries, the Liberian Council of Churches, in ecumenical partnership with other para church groups, denominations and Christian organizations has announced that it is suspending regular worship to all churches in Montserrado and Margibi counties respectively in the wake of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement signed by Rev. Kortu Brown, President of the LCC, the council said the decision came after a conclusive meeting over the last three days on the conditions and [health emergency] actions taken by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Liberia to order the closure of churches due to the 3rd confirmed case of Coronavirus in Liberia.

Last Sunday, warlord-turned Senator Johnson and clergyman, who is pastor of the Chapel of Faith Ministries became dramatic as the Senator refused to adhere to the sudden health regulations that were being enforced by the Inspector General of Police, Col. Patrick Sudue.

Senator Johnson's action came hours after the Ministry of Health declared a national health emergency in the country.

Similarly, this week, worshippers at the Saint Assembly Church located in the Old Road Community on

Thursday evening gathered on a field for a crusade, noting that it is time to pray for the nation.

Clustered together in large numbers, some sitting in the bare sand energetically clapping and praying in the charismatic style, others moving from one end to the other, they were totally deaf to the call of the police who arrived at the prayer ground with a loudspeaker asking them to disperse, though some of their leaders were arrested by the police.

The police did not succeed in dispersing the religious sect.

The Ministry of Health on Sunday declared a national health emergency and announced several health regulations including a ban on religious gatherings and worship services in an effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19 of which Liberia already has three confirmed cases. The country is faced with the dilemma of discovering the source of the third case.

In its statement, the Church Heads and leaders, declared that after careful study of the situation with a focus on the health and well-being of the people, acknowledging the partnership with the government of the Republic of Liberia, and accepting the apology of the government of Liberia through the Minister of Justice, Inspector General of Police and the Minister of Health on the manner in which some worship services were shut down and the actions taken against some churches during the closure exercises on Sunday, March 22, 2020, resolved with the following:

That the Churches have agreed to suspend worship services for the three Sundays laid down in the health emergency declaration by the Minister of Health. The three Sundays, in accordance with the Ministry of Health 21-day declaration include March 22, March 29 and April 5, 2020

That the Church calls on all its members especially Pastors and prayer teams to remain in the attitude of prayer for the defeat of the virus.

That the church will work with the government to ensure that awareness and promotion of preventive measures are carried out on the severity of the Coronavirus

That the government through the Minister of Health has re-iterated that the health emergency is declared for now only in Montserrado and Margibi counties, and therefore other churches in the remaining counties are encouraged to open their doors to the public for worship and prayers observing the health protocols i.e. wash your hands, do not shake hands, practice social distancing, check attendants temperature, provide awareness to your members on the virus, amongst others

That the government will inform its local authorities including the Police in the various counties not under the health emergency to stop frightening the churches in areas outside Montserrado and Margibi Counties

That all churches abide by the protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia supported by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease and Control.

We are looking forward to a strong partnership with the Government of Liberia in ensuring public safety including avoiding large gatherings at the church and in all sectors until this pandemic is defeated in Liberia.

As we make this declaration, we want to make the following clarion calls:

The Call to Prayer and Supplication:

According to I Kings 8:37-39, and I quote: "If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all Your people of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this House: Then hear You in Heaven Your Dwelling Place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart You know; (for You, even You only, know the hearts of all the children of men;)

We call on all Liberians and residents within our borders to continue to seek the face of God to spare us of this pestilence or pandemic that is invading the world. God can limit its spread. We encourage pastors and religious leaders to direct their constituencies wherever they are, to continue to make intercession and supplication to the God of the universe who is the God of St. John 3:16 to intervene and save mankind and restore our inheritance

Appeal to All Churches and religious organizations:

According to Isaiah 1:18, and I quote: "Come, now and let us reason together... " We encourage all spiritual and/or religious leaders to pull together and cooperate to stem the virus out of Liberia. This is our impassioned appeal! Liberians have always pull together in times of adversity. Let us therefore reach out and encourage one another and find ways we can cooperate to defeat this virus as we did to Ebola. A 25-member Coronavirus Ecumenical Emergency Response (CEER) has been established by the Churches to work along with all national stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, WHO, etc. to help mobilize the churches and religious community to expel this virus from our country

2. An Admonition to all National Stakeholders

The LCC also wishes to admonish all Liberians including the Government of Liberia, Ministry of Health, Liberia National Police, amongst others: "Let's fight this virus! Let us fight it together! Let's not fight each other. The virus is our common enemy. All of us! Time is of an essence in this fight. Let us pull together, pray and take the appropriate steps that will limit the spread of coronavirus in Liberia and around the world."

Recently, the historic Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia became the first church to take steps to curb the spiraling virus in Liberia, temporarily suspending worship services, in a bid to help curtail the spread of the Coronavirus in Liberia.

The Church, which is located on Ashmun and Broad Streets in central Monrovia, is regarded as the "cornerstone" of the nation because it was where Liberia's Declaration of Independence was signed on July 26, 1847.

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