“Our churches are closed but the Church is not closed, for we are the Church”. This statement is a paraphrasing of the of one the vital points made by the Bishop, the Most Rev E. A. Badejo, at the beginning of the challenging period of the lock down that eventually lasted months. The situation, at the beginning, threw almost everyone into confusion, for there was little or no anticipation of such. Yet, we did live beyond it, to the glory of God! Since the Church exists in the first place, to offer salvation to the people, by attending to their spiritual needs, it became necessary, that the Church has to make adjustments so as to co-operate with the civil society in fighting the pandemic. The initiatives put to use are:
Prayers in the Families: There was a common agreement that our people be helped to pray in their families. Therefore, some guidelines were given to them. Parents were instructed on how to lead in their families; and youth who can read should assist in biblical and spiritual readings. Besides Morning and Night Prayers, they were asked to say more frequently, the prayer to St Michael, the Archangel, the Angelus and the Rosary.
Masses with Families or Small Christian Communities: At the beginning, some parishes were saying Masses with families that might so show desire for it, with people not more than ten. However, as the situation improved, families around the same area could come together for Masses. This was a bit akin to the use of the “Small Christian Communities” by some parishes.
Sunday Masses: In most parishes, Masses were said every Sunday in our main churches, with people not more than ten, who had to follow the laid down rules of handwashing, face masking and physical distancing. The parishes adopted different ways in selecting the number: some made use of societies in the parishes; while made do with families or groups. It is to be noted that most of our Prayer Leaders and Catechists were really active during this time, as they would go to conduct Services in some “Small Christian Communities.” Where Seminarians were present, they were involved, after being guided on what to do in such an assembly.
Finances: It is not exaggerating to say that most of the financial obligations of the parishes in the deanery were met through from the personal savings of the Priests. This is not to say that there were no collections coming from the people at all. However, this was too meager to meet up with the financial commitments of the parishes, since Priests even had to assist many financially in such a difficult time.
Palliatives to the People: In such a hard time, the Church could not close her eyes to the most basic needs of the people. Therefore, different parishes had to assist their people by giving some assistance to those who asked and those judged by the Priests to be in need. Thanks to the Diocese for the different palliatives sent to the parishes!
Other Progammes: While it was impossible to do some online programmes with our youth, some of them were encouraged to take the advantage of the time to acquire new skills, in bag making, art works, hair making, music and so on. Farming became a popular thing in the deanery during this period. Most of the lands around our churches were cultivated-some, even, by the Priests themselves.
Conclusion: As we gradually come out of the period, we pray that such never repeats itself in the history of humanity. Yet, we cannot over-look few things that we must not allow to slip away as some lessons from the pandemic. The first is to always learn to save, no matter how little. Many of us were caught with little or nothing in our accounts. The second is not to take hygiene for granted at any moment. We can also take home the fact that adjustment is possible at any point of our existence, just as we saw it happen in the liturgy and we had to adapt for obvious reasons. In addition, we have the lesson of the fact that the world is not sustained by our noisy crusades that were not held for months but by true and simple prayers coming from pure and true hearts. Thus, the greatest of the lessons is that God remains the first and final answer to all situations. With all the advancements in the “meditechniques”, solution to Covid-19, came not from science but from God.
Fr John ‘Toye Olayiwola.