The COVID-19 pandemic, also called the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, has caught the Nigerian church completely unawares, just as it has caught governments and many societies, even the medical community, unawares. The virus is certainly not new nor is it strange. What is different about this virus, is both its simplicity and its deadliness. It is a virus that can easily be washed away with soap and water and will die, outside the body within twenty-four hours to four days, depending on the surface. It is however deadly as soon as it gets into the body and symptoms show between two days to four weeks of infection depending on the state of health of the individual and from then on, recovery or death also depends on many more factors.
From the emergence of the pandemic on the global from February 2020, the world has never been the same. The impact on the world economy, social life, and individual lifestyles. Have been unprecedented. The impact on the Nigerian church is even more profound.
The church, unprepared, without clear and adequate information from authorities from the initial stage, quickly set up a defensive barrier against what it saw as a threat to public worship. Churches were forced to close, after some intimidation and arrests and the church grudgingly moved online, at least in the townships and city centres where pastors knew how to Zoom and have the equipment. Those who didn’t know what to do scrambled to have makeshift YouTube worship services. This is now to be the new norm.
While in the villages, churches may likely go back to full worship, because at least for now the rate of infection is still relatively low and ‘lack of evidence’ that sends the message to a ‘seeing is believing’ rural mindset still prevails, the city centred churches are now looking up to their new found Zoom experiences and indeed, are looking forward to expanding the congregation online. Media equipment and online presence will continue to grow in this new normal as churches perfect their skills for online conferences and broadcasts. But there. Will still be the traditional few, who will still feel isolated and cut out from fellowships because, as the scripture will always be quoted, ‘never to neglect the gathering of the saints.”