Pastor Alemsunep pre-recording the sermon to be circulated in the church WhatsApp chat group on Sunday morning. (Photo Courtesy: WICC Dimapur)
Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | March 21
As the world over continues to face increasing uncertainty over the spread of COVID-19, many local churches in Nagaland have decided to suspend the regular Sunday Worship Service as a preventive measure.
To ensure the safety of its members in the wake of the pandemic and realizing that church gatherings could pose a potential platform for it to spread, the deacon board and pastoral team of Union Baptist Church (UBC) Kohima has suspended two Sunday services for March 22 and 29 respectively.
Three days ago on March 18, a day ahead of the Prime Minister’s call for Janata Curfew, the UBC Deacon Board had also decided to suspend all Sunday School activities and programs till April 12 as well as all church special programs such as weekly meetings, camps, retreats, conferences and seminars till March 31. As a precautionary measure, the suspension of the Sunday service had been discussed prior to the call for Janata Curfew.
Speaking to The Morung Express, UBC, Pastor, Rachülie Vihienuo impressed upon that the suspension of Sunday worship service is a huge step for us in Nagaland because of the religious sentiment, which, he added is understandable and not easy. However, he emphasized that “the health of our church members is paramount and we are taking this step purely on that basis. There are some who are still feeling uneasy about the suspension of the Sunday worship, but we need to care for one another.”
The church had thought of live streaming the Sunday service, but stating that “we realised that the internet might be a big rush on that day with everybody going online”, Vihienuo said, “we have decided to have recorded videos of the sermons and share prayer concerns that families can use to facilitate their worship.” In this regard, the members have been encouraged to have family worship particularly on Sundays preferably at their usual worship time which is 9:30 am while calling upon them to creatively plan their own worship with songs, hymns, scripture readings etc. In the meantime, the Sunday school department would be sending lesson and activity materials that parents can use to teach their kids.
Pastors, he said, will be on call anytime to personally pray for any member who needs prayer over the phone. The UBC Church that lies in the heart of Kohima town has also been disinfected and is open from 6:00 am- 6:00 pm everyday for anyone who might want to walk in and pray personally.
Starting from March 21, Minister’s Hill Baptist Church (MHBC) Kohima has also decided to temporarily suspend 3 Sunday Worship Services. Lead Pastor, Neino Zhotso said this was decided in a meeting of the Church Board on Friday evening. Apart from the Sunday worship services, all department services, Church programs and activities have been suspended for three weeks. However, she said, the church door is always open for those who desire to pray individually and seek the Lord. They have also requested all church believers to observe prayer and fasting in their respective homes till 12:00 pm on Sunday, March 22.
City Church Kohima will also not gather on Sunday- March 22 but have “City Church Prayer and Fasting Sunday” from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, wherein all families and individuals can observe the fast in their respective homes while stating options such as fasting from food or mobile phones, or TV etc. All Sunday School classes, all the week-day services and choir practices will also remain suspended until April 12. These decisions, it said, “were taken prayerfully and with the belief that we are acting in obedience to the authorities, and for the common good of all citizens, which is our biblical mandate.”
Meanwhile, in a circular dated March 20, the Chakhesang Baptist Church Minister’s Hill, Kohima said it will continue Sunday Worship Service but will keep it brief and meaningful and will also endeavor to provide online worship streaming at the earliest. Sunday School classes however remain suspended as of now and except for emergency purposes, all church related meetings have been temporarily suspended and all camps, retreats and other gatherings remain postponed till further notice.
In Dimapur, the Ao Baptist Church (DABA) has decided to suspend its Sunday devotional service on March 22. A circular issued by the DABA pastor, Rev I Wati Jamir stated that the churches will ring the bell at the regular time, however; there will be no mass gathering. The members are advised to conduct the worship service in their respective homes. The church hopes to begin live streaming soon.
Likewise, as per its Facebook page update, Faith Harvest Church, Kohima will continue with its Sunday Worship Services (English and Nagamese), both of which will be streamed online on their Facebook page from 10:30 am for English and 3:00 pm for Nagamese, giving the options for its members to join the service online or come to the church. The church would also be disinfected before the Sunday service and ushers with face mask would ensure that all worshippers who enter the church are sanitized at the entrance.
Similarly, The Lighthouse Church, Dimapur will have the congregation sanitize their hands before entering the worship hall for their devotional English service on Sunday which will be streamed at 11:00 am. The Nagamese, Children Church and GANG (Youth) Services however remains suspended till further notice.
The World Impact Community Church, Dimapur pastor Alemsunep said they are doing a pre-recording of the sermon which will be circulated in the church WhatsApp chat group on Sunday morning. “We are not ready to go live streaming at the moment but if the situation continues, we will have to give a thought about it. Online is going to be the next thing and we are encouraged by the initiatives taken by various churches,” pastor Alem added.