Views & Reviews
Here’s Why I Support Temporary Suspension of Sunday Church Services
Recent decision of the state government to temporarily close all educational institutions to prevent and control the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a step in the right direction. Many countries have been forced to compulsory lockdown due to failure to take preventive measures early on. Should churches in Nagaland follow suit?
First, it is common knowledge that crowded places are hot spots for coronavirus to spread. Educational institutions, hospitals, public places, public transport, conferences, and market places, are some high-risk areas. Social distancing has become necessary to at least slow the spread, if not prevent infection. Reducing close physical interaction keep both you and other people safe. Centre for Diseases Control recommends maintaining a distance of six feet from other peoples when possible.
Second, although younger peoples are less likely to develop severe complications, they are not immune to coronavirus. They can get infected, and in turn pass on the virus to other people, acting as active carriers, even before symptoms develop.
Third, older people are hardest hit. No less vulnerable are young people with lung (respiratory ailments), heart problems, diabetes, and weak immune system. Many countries have banned visitors to old age homes. Nagas are, by nature, very sociable and hospitable, with big extended families. By not taking extra precaution, we put everyone at risk.
Fourth, nobody is immune; no location is beyond reach of this pandemic, in this age of globalisation. Just one infected person can pass the virus to the whole society, if we are careless. Besides, symptoms of coronavirus – runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, difficulty breathing (in severe cases) are so common in our society that we may not mind it too seriously.
Fifth, churches in many countries have cancelled mass services and switched to online live streaming service, with preachers reaching out through camera and internet. Worth mentioning is the case of Patient 31 in South Korea whose active social life led to infection of peoples in the church group.
Sixth, the effectiveness of social distancing is greatly minimised if mass gatherings in churches go on as usual.
Seventh, failure to take effective measures will lead to desperate situations where hospitals are flooded with patients, leading to shortage of medical supplies, space, and healthcare personnel. God forbid that our society should ever be put on compulsory curfew.
Is there a solution? I believe our church councils and associations are discussing ways to find a workable solution. One suggestion from me is to suspend regular Sunday services, and instead encourage families to observe Sundays as day of prayer and fasting (up to noon) at home, during this period. Prayer points and guidelines can be shared through phones and social media. This is far from overreacting. Every family could do well to spend time together, and seek God together. I believe this is how we establish “family altar” while complying with social distancing as mandated by the government.
Social distancing is not all about protecting yourself, but also about not infecting another person. All of us have loved ones in the family who are vulnerable to this virus. They need our protection. Take charge. Be the pastor that your family needs, the missionary to your family. In hard times like this, we Christians do not panic like people who have no hope, but we turn to God who is in control. We also do our duty to protect our loved ones, and not infect our neighbour.
Christian, concerned citizen.