*Being Church in times of Coronavirus: A call for prayers, vigilance and compliance*
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ. Arising from an emergency meeting of the Executive Council of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) today 24/03/2020 where we reflected on the spread and impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), also having reflected in light of the declarations of our government and Christian Association in Nigeria at National and State levels, we send you the following message:
As Christians, this time of global challenge by coronavirus is the time to recommit ourselves to prayer and trust in God’s compassionate presence. “We take courage that God never abandons us” It is time for us to be vigilant by taking appropriate actions to minimize the spread of the virus and to contribute in saving human life. This time calls for love for ourselves and our neighbors by not endangering our lives and the lives of others.
Any action that we take to minimize the spread of the virus is a demonstration of our love for God and our neighbors. This means we have to take hard decisions also in compliance with government directives and in order to support government efforts to protect the lives of citizens.
We take these decisions with the understanding that steps taken by the government are aimed at halting the virus and protecting life. Therefore, they should be supported by all for all.
Consequently, we call for your understanding and urge you to join in the struggles to curb the spread of the virus and its impacts by observing the following:
1. All LCCN conventions, seminars and conferences at all levels are suspended indefinitely.
2. All LCCN schools should comply with government directives and close latest on Friday 27 March 2020.
3. All clergy and congregational leaders are encouraged to find alternative ways of organizing worship in small cells of not more than 50 people at a time as directed by the state, organize shorter worship services, worship in the nearest congregations and strengthen private devotions by families at homes.
4. Members are urged to adhere to “social distancing” and exercise restraint from personal contacts, for example, the practice of greeting each other with handshake at worships and daily life.
5. The celebration of Holy Communion is suspended until further notice.
6. We advise that attendance to burials and funeral services be limited to close family members of the deceased.
7. In compliance with government directives, social events such as weddings and large gatherings should be suspended until the situation comes under control.
8. We urge members to practice personal hygiene including frequent hand washing with soap and running water, use of hand sanitizers and to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Congregations are directed to provide soap and clean water or hand sanitizers at every church entrance or any gathering.
9. Members are encouraged to practice respiratory hygiene such as covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the used tissue immediately.
10. Anyone that has fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, should seek medical care immediately. No stigma should be attached to anyone that exhibits any sign or is affected by the virus.
11. LCCN health centers and clinics are encouraged to integrate awareness on the virus in their services and to liaise with available government health programs to respond to the virus.
12. In line with government’s directives, we encourage people to please stay at home and go out only when necessary.
13. We urge our pastors and congregational leaders to sustain the awareness campaign on the virus in all congregations and to promote practices that contribute to halting its spread.
14. We encourage members to follow very carefully updates from government authentic sources to keep abreast with the information on COVID-19. Beware of false teaching and misleading information such as at the time of Ebola outbreak. Let us avoid spreading of rumors and causing panic.
15. We appeal to all our congregations to ensure that the poor and the most vulnerable in the community are not abandoned. “Let us stand together; hand-in-hand” – Adamawa State CAN.
16. Finally, as CAN has declared this week Sunday 29th March, 2020 for national fasting and prayers we encourage our members to participate fully and bring our supplications to God to remove this plague.
Friends, let us stand together with each other in prayer and solidarity with brothers and sisters around the globe. Let us stand together in faith trusting that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39). Let us pray for God’s grace to be source of hope in times of distress. Remain blessed. Remain safe. May God in his infinite mercy hasten an end to this virus. Amen.
*Most Rev. Musa Panti Filibus, PhD,*