Liberia: Churches Reject Resumption of Worship Services in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic
Monrovia – Three (3) religious denominations in Liberia have rejected President George Manneh Weah’s pronouncement on the recommencement of divine worship services in churches operating in the country beginning this Sunday, May 17, 2020.
It can be recalled that on May 8, President Weah requested churches and mosques to recommence worship services on Sunday, May 17 or the Friday before for Muslims, but with a caution of ensuring that only 25% of each church or mosque’s membership attend services at a time.
Announcing the extension of the state of emergency which was declared to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in Liberia, President Weah also encouraged the leaderships of various churches and mosques operating in the country to hold multiple services in a bid to observe social distancing and avoid over-crowdedness at their respective places of worship.
Previously, the Liberian Chief Executive mandated the closure of all churches, and mosques, among others following the outbreak of Covid-19 in Liberia.
“This will enable us monitor the reduction in the cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in the Archdiocese. By early June we shall observe and decide how to go forward with the resumption of our church activities”.Rev. Lewis Zeigler, Archbishop, Catholic Church
But in separate statements released in Monrovia on Thursday, May 13, the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia, Bethel and Episcopal denominations called on its Priests and Pastors to avoid reopening churches on the date pronounced by the Liberian Chief Executive.
In a statement issued under the signature of Archbishop, Rev. Lewis Zeigler, all Parish Priests, Religious and Laity of the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia were requested to “delay the opening of churches for regular activities till the end of May 2020”.
“This will enable us monitor the reduction in the cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in the Archdiocese. By early June we shall observe and decide how to go forward with the resumption of our church activities”.
A statement issued under the signature of Bishop Dr. Wolo Belleh from the First Diocese Bethel Liberia and Guinea Diocese disclosed that despite the pronouncement made by the Liberian Chief Executive, all Bethel churches will remain closed until further notice.
The statement pointed out that “virtual services should continue to be held via Radio Bethel FM 103.5 as is currently being done”.
The church maintained that though it remains grateful to the Liberian government for the reopening of churches in the country, it believes that the Coronavirus pandemic still persists and as such, all Bethelites should continue to strictly observe all precautionary health protocols, including washing of hands regularly, wearing of face masks, avoid hugging and shaking hands, amongst others.
“While we continue to pray for God’s intervention and direction for the government and all stakeholders to handle this pandemic, we remain resolute that this too will pass”, the statement issued by the Bethel Church in Liberia notes.
For their part, the Episcopal Church in Liberia says it is currently studying the country’s health situation and is “appealing to all Parishes, Chapels, Missions and Preaching Stations to hold on closure for church services for about two weeks beginning May 17 to 31, 2020”.
In a statement issued under the signature of the Vicar General of the Episcopal Church in Liberia, The Ven. Sie-Sunday Freeman, the Church disclosed that during this period, the Vicar General will meet with all members of the Diocesan Committee on Health and all relevant stakeholders on Tuesday, May 19 for the purpose of reviewing and putting in place proper mechanism.
“The Vicar General extends sincere thanks to all clergy for the usage of the various social media platforms in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and would and in the same token like to encourage the clergy to continue this great initiative”.
The Church called on Episcopalians to continue to abide by the government health regulations, and to also keep the Church and Liberia in “your individual prayers and families’ devotion”.
It remains whether or not churches of other denominations or beliefs will follow the decision taken by the Catholic, Bethel and Episcopal churches in Liberia to delay the commencement of regular worship services.
Meanwhile, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) is expected to reportedly issue a statement very soon.
Sources have hinted that the statement will speak to the current situation relative to the precautionary commencement of worship services declared by President Weah during this state of emergency.