Chairman of Church of Pentecost writes on coronavirus safety protocols
THE CHURCH OF PENTECOST – GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
GUIDELINES FOR REOPENING ASSEMBLIES FOR CHURCH SERVICES
The President of the Republic of Ghana in his 10th broadcast on the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Sunday May 31, 2020, announced the easing of restrictions on public gatherings as well on church meetings. Following from that the Ministry of Religious Affairs has also issued guidelines to aid churches organise restricted meetings with COVID-19 in view.
It is to be understood that these protocols are aimed at guarding church members against possible infection occasioned by large numbers of people meeting in one place for a considerable length of time. It is also to ensure that, in the unlikely event of infection, records would be available to facilitate contact-tracing to stamp out the spread of the infection.
Apostle Paul says in Romans 13:1-3(NIV): “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”
In the light of the above, the Executive Council directs that under the supervision of Area Heads, District Pastors and the respective presbyteries, the various assemblies use the next two weeks to take practical steps to meet the full requirements/protocols for the partial opening of assemblies for church services. Thus, the assemblies may be opened on or after June 19,2020, and that services in church buildings should start in assemblies only when adequate preparation has been made to satisfy the required protocols.
1. Formation of COVID-19 Task Force: Each district and assembly should set up a COVID-19 task force which will ensure compliance with the required protocols. The task force may include health workers, security personnel or selected volunteers and be given training in health promotion and prevention measures, infection prevention and control and evacuation procedures by Ghana Health Service.
The task force will be on hand to provide support to enable evacuation if anyone develops fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing during service.
2. Fumigation of all church premises: These must be done by professionals who know the requisite chemicals and the right proportions to be used for the task. Zoomlion Company Limited may be contacted in this regard.
3 . Acquisition of thermometer guns or thermal scanners for assemblies for checking the temperature of congregants at entry points of all assemblies.
The Areas, Districts and endowed Assemblies, or individuals could help other weaker assemblies to acquire the thermometers.
4. Provision of veronica buckets to facilitate washing of hands with soap under running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers to rub hands before entering into the church.
5. Provision/Procurement of adequate waste management facilities (bins, cans, bin-liners and single-use tissues by all assemblies) to enhance proper disposal and management of the waste.
6. Provision of a room or area where persons who become sick at the premises of the church can be isolated from others, while arrangements are being made for evacuation. Where rooms are not available, first aid tents could be erected for that purpose.
7. Education and training
• Assemblies should display approved health promotion materials at vantage points to remind congregants to keep to physical distancing protocols, wearing of face masks, regular handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette.
• Assemblies are to regularly emphasize no handshaking, no hugging, no waving of handkerchiefs and no spitting, no crowd dancing, at all times of meeting.
• Sharing personal items such as watches, jewelry, pens and phones are discouraged.
• Microphones are to be sanitized immediately after use. Microphone windshields may be used and changed regularly during the services. Where practicable, particularly in smaller assemblies, services may be conducted without microphones.
• Regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently used places (like toilet surfaces) and frequently touched surfaces such as door-knobs and handles and pulpits/lecterns.
• Face Masks: All church attendees must wear face masks before entering the church building. Assemblies may acquire extra nose masks to give to members and visitors who may come to church not wearing nose masks.
All who sing in church, speak or preach in church must be wearing their nose masks while performing their duties.
• Entry and exiting: Ushers should ensure that entry into church buildings for service, as well as exiting are done in an orderly manner and with adequate physical distancing.
• Seating arrangements
In all assemblies seating arrangements should be made in compliance with the mandatory physical distance of one (1) meter or three (3) feet rule. Attendance should not exceed 100 in all services at any time.
For bigger assemblies that will find it difficult to run several shifts of 100 members, arrangements could be made for some of the meetings to be held at cell and family/friends’ levels, or some services could be held on Saturdays where possible.
• Service Programme: Area Heads, District pastors and presbyters may design an outline for church services allotting specific times to each item to make for efficient use of time.
• Duration of service: Services should not last for more than one hour. At least 5 minutes of the service time should be used to educate church members on COVID-19.
• Record Keeping: Records of all church attendees for any particular meeting must be kept. These include phone numbers and residential addresses. This is to ease contact tracing should any infection of the virus occur. Those assemblies that record attendance through digital means will have to keep manual records on visitors not captured on their data.
To facilitate compilation of records, it is suggested that specified cells and families are grouped, their data compiled and used in structuring shift system in the assemblies. This strategy will also ease contact tracing in case of any eventuality.
• Communion service: Communion must be prepared under hygienic conditions with those involved wearing face masks and hands well kept. Where pre-packed communion elements (communion wine and wafer) are available, they are recommended. Where not available, the wafer or bread should be dispensed to communicants using a spoon. It is recommended that disposable cups be used to serve the communion wine to communicants.
• Evening services may be conducted at the church, home cell and family/friend levels. The necessary protocols must be well kept in every case. It is advised that these times be used to strengthen the cell system in the local assemblies.
Sunday evenings are to be used for family devotions and prayers.
• Children services/Sunday school: Sunday school programmes for children may be suspended until further notice. This is due to perceived vulnerability of children generally, and the need to protect them. They are to be encouraged to patronize children services on PENT TV, Atinka TV and other social media handles of the church.
• Monthly Ministry Meetings: These may be observed at assembly, cell, family and friends’ levels but under and with strict observation of the protocols for restricted meetings.
• Bible Studies: Bible studies are to be organised at Assembly, cell, family/friends’ levels. In the assemblies, some Sunday mornings may be devoted to bible studies in place of sermons. Where space does not allow for sitting in groups, a leader may lead the studies from the pulpit.
• Friday evening prayers: These may be held at Assembly, home cell and family/friends’ levels.
• Gospel Sunday: This shall be observed under the approved protocols, in all assemblies
• Joint services: All joint services at district and Area levels are to be discouraged until restrictions are further eased.
• Water baptism: In the light of concerns about touching one another, it is recommended that water baptism be suspended until further directives are given. However, new converts class and follow-up should be done until they are baptized.
• Child-naming/dedication: Child naming/dedication can be done at church, cell, family/friends levels where convenient – observing physical distance and the appropriate protocols. There shall be no laying on of hands when the child is being prayed for.
However, mass dedication of children in church buildings is suspended until further notice.
• Tithes/Offerings: Tithe and offerings shall be taken during services. Deacons, deaconesses and ushers should ensure safe distancing while offering is being taken. Members should be encouraged to subscribe to Momo and other means of electronic systems offering where practicable.
• Weddings: Weddings could be held in registered church buildings with a maximum of 100 attendees, or registered mission house with limited attendees. All protocols regulating church meetings shall apply. Ministers could give attendance quotas to church members, family members and invitees of the would-be couple.
• Funerals: Burial and memorial services are to be done with a maximum of 100 people, observing all other protocols relating thereto. Attendance quotas may be given to church members and the bereaved family to ensure attendance do not exceed hundred. It is recommended that families of the bereaved thank the church at the end of the memorial and burial service, and may not need to do it at church on Sunday.
• Funeral of Ministers and ministers’ wives: Area Heads are to ensure that outstanding funerals of ministers and ministers’ wives are done by July 31, 2020, given the easing of restrictions on conduct of funerals as announced by the President.
• Half/All-night prayer meetings: In view of the fact that duration of church services are not to exceed one hour, congregating for half-night and all-night prayer meetings are suspended. Individuals are however encouraged to spend extended times in prayer.
Where assemblies have the capability, social media may be used for extended prayer meetings.
9. Monitoring and Supervision: Area and District monitoring teams should be formed to conduct regular monitoring visits and on-site supervision in ensuring that all local assemblies follow and comply with the protocols.
10. Assistance to the needy and vulnerable: Assemblies and individual members are encouraged to continue supporting members who have been affected financially and are facing challenges due to COVID-19.
11. Visitation to members: In these trying times, ministers and the presbytery should intensify visitation to members to check on their well-being and ensure that they stay in fellowship with the Lord.
12. Prayer Centres
• The protocols on the reopening of churches direct that unwell persons are not allowed to attend church, and older persons and people of any age with underlying medical conditions, such as heart diseases, diabetes, liver diseases, and asthma are to stay away from church services.
• In view of the fact that many of those who throng the Prayer Centres fall in this category, it is directed that Prayer Centres should desist from admitting such people for prayers until further directives are issued.
• Prayer meetings organised at the Centres should satisfy all the protocols required for meeting in churches. Area Heads and District Pastors are to ensure strict compliance with all protocols at the Prayer Centres.
• Prayer Centre Assemblies: Assemblies in prayer centres may run services just like any other assembly with full adherence to the protocols and guidelines as being directed.
Area Heads, District pastors and presbyteries are to study the above general guidelines and find workable ways of implementing them in order to observe all the protocols given by the government.
Members are admonished to continue to pray that the coronavirus will be completely cleared from our country and the world or the appropriate vaccines be found to control it.
Dated: June 6, 2020.
By: Apostle Eric Nyamekye, COP Chairman