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The Rev Ikechukwu Anaga
The Rev Ikechukwu Anaga

The Coronavirus Diaries: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness

Wednesday October 21 2020

The Rev Ikechukwu Anaga reflects on the impact of Covid-19 in Nigeria.

The year 2020 started with the usual pomp and pageantry with thanksgiving to God for His uncountable mercies, but nobody knew that Covid-19 was on its way to bring about a new normal that will give birth to a fresh spiritual connectedness of the Mary Slessor Memorial Presbyterian Church, Port Harcourt Parish and the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria as a whole.

The federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Lagos, Nigeria on February 27  and on the March 25, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The Rivers State government on March 26 locked down the state and put in place a dusk to dawn curfew. The Church and her leadership were thrown into panic, but we refused to be docile and overlook the sudden changes brought by the ban on all forms of public religious worship and closure of markets. We knew that Covid-19 is here to stay until a generally accepted vaccine is produced and made available for public use. Hence, we must be willing to make some attitudinal and psychological adjustments, if we must survive the virus and its effects on the Church.

In the midst of COVID-19; the panic and the confusion, the scriptures in Romans 8:28, 31, 35-39 was handy to encourage the leadership of the church to think outside the box and move the church to a new level spirituality, for our God is in perfect control of the situation “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Since we have a resolve to be victorious no matter the circumstance, the first session virtual meeting held on March 25 , via the WhatsApp platform and the decision to have a virtual service was taken. The first virtual service took place on the  March 29. The members who did not have smart phones received and order of service and sermons via text message. In the midst of the pandemic the spiritual connectedness as members of the body of Christ was strengthened through virtual meetings and services.

The lockdown brought untold hardship to parishioners, because many people had lost their livelihood.  Our spiritual connectedness was further strengthened when we called for financial support to provide palliative (groceries and food stuff) for indigent members who had lost their livelihood. We have six Mission Outstations (Bonny Island, Kula Island, Harris Town, Buguma, Mbiama and Abonnema) under the Mary Slessor Memorial Presbyterian Church and two of them are in the Islands. These Mission Outstations were visited with palliatives delivered on their doorposts. It was a great encouragement for them in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scripture of Psalms 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” came alive in us as most of the parishes of Presbyterian Church of Nigeria started having virtual streams of church services; this gave an opportunity for Presbyterians to join their parishes and other parishes for virtual services online. The spiritual bonding and connectedness increased drastically to the amazement of many.

Covid-19 may have come and changed our lives and the way we live, bringing with it a new normal, but this new normal strengthened our spiritual connectedness. At the peak of the pandemic, we reached more people around world with gospel of Jesus Christ. The finance of the church was increased significantly because of online transfer of offerings into the church’s bank account. We are now more connected spiritually than before Covid-19.

The Rev Ikechukwu Anaga is the minister in charge of Mary Slessor Memorial Presbyterian Church in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He is the immediate past deputy director of Presbyterian Community Services and Development and National Co-ordinator of the Thursdays in Black campaign of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'