Covid-19: Shutting Down Churches, Would Be Like Shutting Down Hospitals – Bishop Oyedepo Declares, Holds Sunday Services

Bishop David Oyedepo, has vowed to continue holding Sunday Services for thousands of his followers, spurning worldwide medical advisory against physical contact, at a time of the blazing coronavirus pandemic.

David Oyedepo brushed aside the potential hazards of his decision to defy government restrictions on social gatherings across Nigeria, saying that, some members would rather look up to Sunday Service, as the only viable means of treatment against Covid-19, a strain of coronavirus that has killed more than 15,000 people, and left tens of thousands bedridden across the world.

“Shutting down Churches would be like shutting down Hospitals”, Oyedepo said during the March 22, Sunday Service, which was also streamed live online.
“There are many, many places that would never have any medical solution, but in Church.”

Oyedepo held the Sunday Service at the Headquarters of his Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), on the outskirts of Lagos, on Sunday morning, the same day that Nigeria’s coronavirus infections jumped to 30, and Health Experts were raising alarm about the importance of social distancing.

A Police Spokesperson showed up to ask Oyedepo not to hold the Service, for the health benefit of his members and society, but he proceeded nonetheless.

The Preacher held two Services within hours apart, even though the government had placed an indefinite moratorium on religious gatherings, amidst scramble to contain the spread of the virus.

The Service in Sango-Ota, which falls under Ogun State, but keeps a close proximity with the nation’s commercial capital, held without provision of hand sanitisers to members, according to two people who attended, allegedly.

“They also did not check for our temperature, before hundreds of us went into the Church for Service”, Tunmise Ogunlolu, a member of the Church, revealed.
“Everyone was visibly afraid throughout the service.”

Ms. Ogunlolu stated further that she and many others attended the Service, to see whether Oyedepo would announce an indefinite suspension of Services, pending the containment of Covid-19, “but I was not too disappointed that he did not postpone.

“The anointing that we received at Church yesterday, was very important to myself and other members”, she however added. “But I am not sure I will take the risk again next week.”

Another member who attended the Service said that it was “obviously scanty”.

Winners Chapel boasts of some of the largest congregations in Nigeria. Its Headquarters can hold as many as 250,000 people during overflow, and Oyedepo himself has once been listed amongs the world’s richest Pastors by Forbes. The Church also has hundreds of other branches in Nigeria and other countries.

Although the Headquarters, Canaan Land, had long assumed a community of its own, some of its administrative functions are still subject to the State and Federal laws in Nigeria.

Yet, the Church was left out when law enforcement authorities besieged worship centres across Lagos and Ogun States, to enforce social distancing measures on Sunday. Several Churches were closed in Lagos and some communities in Ogun, for apparent violation of a widely publicised ban on gatherings of more than 50 persons. The number has been reviewed downward to only 20, in Lagos.
Winners Chapel appeared to be the only Church in its category that held Service, against public health directive, on Sunday. A cascade of Sunday Service cancellations began among other mega and minor Pentecostal Churches across the country, following meetings with State Governments, throughout the week.

Some Churches, like the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, and Methodist Church Nigeria, that initially asked members to show up for Sunday Service, later decided against it at the eleventh-hour, urging their members to obey public safety directives instead.

Most of the Churches used the internet and other forms of mass Media, to pass messages to their members at home, on Sunday.

Oyedepo himself acknowledged the essence of the government’s directive in statements preceding his declaration, that the Church is more important than the Hospital, for some members.

“Every measure being taken is only to preserve lives”, Oyedepo said. 
“We will subscribe fully to whatever preserves lives.”

He also said that Churches are coming up with other means of passing sermons to members outside the Church, stating that, it would help “avoid up and down movement”,

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