Posted by News Express | 13 June 2020 | 1,599 times
As the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic eases in many countries of the world and global economy and social life begin to pick up, Christians in Nigeria and abroad are already looking forward to congregating once again. But how has their online worship experience been?
Paul Adeniyi Ajayi, who worships with The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Canada says it hasn’t been easy adapting to services online, “especially for people who most of their lives have always gone to church, not only on Sundays, but as many as three to four times a week. I think it takes discipline to transition into that mood. And when I say discipline, I mean to be able to handle the online service as you would have done the physical gathering in church.”
Ajayi admits that the many distractions people have to deal with, makes online worship a rather tough call. “I’m sure we all know that there are distractions when you’re home. Your bed is there, your dining table, fridge and other family members that you would easily reach out to, something that would ordinarily not happen if you were in church.”
Asked how he deals with these distractions, Ajayi said, “Having the mindset that you’re going to have fellowship with God, even though it’s in your home, makes a difference. Again, one way I conditioned my body for online worship is to dress up for it. I work from home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be in my pajamas all day. So, I awake and prepare like I’m going to the office. When we wake up, prepare and dress up like we’re going to church, it helps condition our mind for that event.
“I would say the advantage is in the fact that you save the time you would have used in commuting to church. For me, I have to be in church at 8am on Sundays; so I have to wake up at 5:30 to get my family ready, but worshipping from home gives me an extra hour of sleep.”
Even though Ajayi thinks online worship is good, he admits that he prefers congregating in the physical church. “I actually prefer, if I can, to be physically present than to do it online. The online has its own place, but the difference is clear.”
On why he thinks the physical gathering is better, Ajayi said, “Possibly because we have been used to this method of worship. In the physical gathering, there are fewer distractions compared to worshipping from home. No matter the duration of the service, you’ll get the best more in church than when you connect online. Besides, worshipping online lacks that physical touch congregating affords you.”
Describing the online service pattern, Ajayi said, “The service is streamed from a central location and we connect from our homes. The doors to my church are always open, because here in Canada we are allowed to have up to 10 people in church. So, we drew up a roaster. When I am not in church and worshipping from home, the service is compartmentalised the way we would normally do it in church. There’s opening prayer, praise and worship, testimony, the word and offering after the word, then the benediction.
Is Ajayi looking forward to the first Sunday service after the pandemic? “I am sincerely looking forward to when all of this will be over, but my school of thought is that the online service should remain an option. Some churches hold a lot of conferences and retreats; sometimes the atmosphere to attend might not be so convenient, but if we have an online option, we can just connect from wherever we are. I’m hoping it will remain an option, so we have a mixture of both, such that if it’s impossible for you to be in the physical church, you can connect in the spirit and online as well.”
For Omotunde Olatunji, a member of Deeper Life Bible Church, Lagos, “The experience has been nice. Since it is new, we devise a way of making it as interesting as possible. The only difference is that it’s not as regimented as the regular service, where we have to sit in a particular way. We have a kind of liberty or freedom to make the service as flexible as possible, not too hectic as the regular service.”
Asked what ways he makes the online service less hectic, Olatunji said, “I make the children active in the choir. They prepare a song before the service. Sometimes, they write their own songs, which makes them develop their gift in that area. Also, we allow the children to handle some aspects of the service. We make the service very interactive.”
Does he foresee online worship becoming the new norm post-covid? “I do not see that happening because there is strength in numbers. The more we gather, the more we sharpen one another. I believe that if the church is permitted, when the circumstances are right, coming together in worship is still best for us.”
“In our family, we try as much as possible to dress like we are going to church and start the same time we would start the normal service. It’s just that the service is a bit shorter. Once or twice, the children collected offering, but I just told them that this may not be too necessary at this time. Rather, what we do is that when we see people in need around us, we share the little we have with them.”
Asked what he misses most, he said, “As a preacher, I feel for the pastors that are preaching online, because sometimes you enjoy seeing the people you’re preaching to. You get feedback from them too. That touch of seeing the people you’re preaching to directly is more real than virtual.”
Olatunji has however learnt something from his online worship experience. “Personally, I have always believed that the church is the people, but now, I guess that has become clearer to more people. The basic thing I think I have learnt is that these days, you can be in your house and attend like two or three services of different denominations.”
Apostle Wesley Umukoro is the founding Bishop of Royal Champions Faith Embassy, Sapele, Delta State. To cope with the lockdown and manage to interface with his church members, he said, “We adopted the home cell method of worship, where members worshipped in homes closest to them in small numbers, to enable them observe social distancing and other safety measures. We also ensured that we posted gospel messages on our social media handles to keep people abreast of God’s word.”
Three weeks back, the lockdown was partially lifted in Delta State and the ban on worship centres was also lifted with certain rules, but Umukoro said, “Service was scanty. Though we had proposed to hold two services that day, we couldn’t. People were scared because of the limit that was placed by the government. But things are better now, we hold two services.”
Do you see yourself conducting services online after this whole lockdown experience? “Yes. Even after the lockdown, if I have the opportunity and members are well educated, we want to be online with them too. Besides, it’s also an avenue to reach out to others. I see this whole lockdown thing as having created an opportunity to reach out to more people online. I think it’s a good thing.”
“One thing I’ve learnt is that over the years, we’ve played religion and not Christianity. A lot of people are just churchy and a lot of pastors are centered on offering. If you take a close look at why some pastors are agitating for the reopening of churches, you will discover that it’s because of what they are getting from offering; they actually do not care about the flock.” (The Nation)
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