This year’s Easter celebration has suffered an unprecedented disruption, unleashed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but that is not stopping Christians from observing the occasion in solitude.
Ghana, like many parts of the world, has announced sweeping restrictions on movements and the observation of social distancing. The restrictions include a ban on all social gatherings, including the conduct of church services.
The leaders of the Christian community, unfazed by the restrictions, have resorted to technology to broadcast messages and devotionals to sustain the faith and momentum of members of their congregations.
Although they do not have the opportunity to organise the conventions and revivals that usually characterise Easter, Christian leaders have again used the power of the mass media, both social and traditional, to reach out to their members across the country.
“Sitting within the limitation of a lockdown imposed for my own protection, I have no choice as a priest except to walk interestingly, in the land of virtual reality: a virtual congregation, virtual praises and prayer, virtual hallelujah and (ssshhh…) virtual offertory,” the Head Pastor, Living Streams International, Rev. Dr Ebenezer M. Markwei, summed up the innovation necessitated by the reality.
The Easter messages cut across calls for unity and love among Christians and the public, rededication of oneself to the Lord Jesus Christ, whose passion on the cross, death and resurrection, is the reason for the season; the need to stand firm and eschew fear, and strongly advocate that members and the entire citizenry adhere to the measures announced by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Markwei said Jesus, who was nailed to death on the cross and rose again, and now sat in the Heavens, was still at work in mankind to craft for Himself a glorious Church.
“We are still a work in progress, and God ain’t done with us yet. He’s working behind the scenes to raise my story and yours too to dizzy heights for all to acknowledge and celebrate! So COVID-19 cannot be the end of our story,” he stated.
Rev. Dr Markwei said God’s unseen hand was “working for our good, bringing us to an expected end” and called on the church to lay aside the garment of fear, roll away the stones of anxiety and watch the storm pass away, adding that in the bleak Easter season, His resurrection was real.
Mary Mensah reports that the Apostle General of the Royalhouse Chapel International, Most Rev. Sam Korankye Ankrah, in his Easter Message said once again Easter was here with us, albeit under different circumstances, there was a compelling reason to rejoice because “Jesus Christ is still Lord.”
He said the period was a perfect opportunity for Christians to show steadfastness and faithfulness to “our Lord and Master Jesus as we celebrate His victory on the cross that gave us power and authority over life’s challenges, including COVID-19.
That is our hope, that is our faith; and we shall never be moved.”
Unity, love, sacrifice
The Apostle General said as a nation, in spite of individual differences, in the spirit of Easter, “we must work together in unity, love and sacrifice by having one mind and voice, as we put our shoulders to the wheel, to support the government, our families and neighbours, through prayers, obedience to government directives, brotherly support in cash and kind, to ensure our own safety, wellbeing and survival.”
Most Rev. Korankye Ankrah reminded citizens that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand,” referencing Mark 3:24.
He also urged Ghanaians to allow the peace of Christ Jesus that surpassed all understanding to settle in their hearts and guide them in the season and after, stressing, “Do not fear, we shall overcome. The Lord is on our side. There is still victory on the cross.”
“Indeed, it is unprecedented that this year’s Easter had to be celebrated “indoors” without the usual jubilations and family reunions that come with it. But we need to take consolation in the fact that as Christians, all things work together for our good,” the Moderator of the Global Evangelical Church (GEC), Rt Rev. Dr Setorwu Kwadzo Ofori, encouraged Christians in his message.
Reiterating that the country was not in ordinary times due to COVID-19, he said in the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ who overcame the world, “we’re rest assured that Ghana and for that matter the rest of the world would overcome the coronavirus pandemic.”
Prayers, personal hygiene
He gave an assurance that members of the GEC would not only pray unceasingly, but the church shall also extend its hands of benevolence to needy institutions and individuals during the crisis period.
Rt Rev. Dr Ofori reiterated the call for individuals to observe personal hygiene, social distancing, frequent washing of hands with soap and water, regular use of alcohol-based sanitisers, covering the nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, among other precautionary measures.
Strengthen family bonds
The GEC Moderator said the period should also be used to strengthen family bonds, develop new skills, such as reading and writing, and generally engage in productive ventures, while urging all, especially, those who are yet to give their lives to Jesus to do so and also maintain good relationship with the Saviour.
Fight COVID-19 vigorously
Albert K. Salia writes that the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has urged Ghanaians not to leave anything to chance in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
That, it said, required that Ghanaians observe the restrictions imposed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and also follow the precautionary measures laid down by the Ghana Health Service and the GCBC.
“We crave your indulgence not to leave any stone unturned as we all battle on to fight this pandemic. If Christ died for us, we too should be willing to do what we can to protect ourselves, family members and every Ghanaian,” it said.
Each other’s keeper
In an Easter message, signed by its President, Most Rev. Philip Naameh, it said if there was anything that the COVID-19 pandemic had taught Ghanaians, “it is a reminder of our common humanity where there is no distinction between race, religion, gender or status.”
It said to be each other’s keeper also required that Ghanaians stop taking advantage of the situation to make more money for themselves by exploiting others, stressing that “this is not the time to make more money but to go to the help of the needy and suffering.”
It said the COVID-19 pandemic had provoked a new lease of life and creativity that Ghanaians were not aware they had, adding that in some cases, re-learning some of the basic things they needed to do out of consideration for others in public and how to stay healthy.
The statement urged Ghanaians to use those renewed skills to love God and their neighbours more intensely so that those God-given skills can renew and re-build the family of God.
The GCBC prayed for all scientists, researchers, medical experts, as well as those working in hospitals and the health sector that they might be well protected in the discharge of their duties.
The Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle Eric Kwabena Nyamekye, said Easter was important for Christians as they commemorated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reports Emelia Ennin Abbey.
“The celebration reminds us of how God, through His Son Jesus, reconciled man to Himself, citing 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, which says… “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him,” he said.
Apostle Nyamekye acknowledged that since the outbreak of the disease, several theories had been propounded to explain the pandemic and while some were weird, others were thought-provoking, prompting discerning hearts to rethink their world and the future of Christianity.
“Some people even feel our world has changed forever. But brothers and sisters in the Lord, God has something to say: ‘I am the first, the last, the only God; there is no other God but me. Could anyone else have done what I did? Who could have predicted all that would happen from the very beginning to the end of time? Do not be afraid, my people! You know that from ancient times until now I have predicted all that would happen, and you are my witnesses. Is there any other God? Is there some powerful God I never heard of’,” he said, citing Isaiah 44:6-8.
The chairman of the church urged Christians not be terrified but know that God was with all and remained the refuge, fortress, and the ever present help in such times.
“But brothers and sisters, we are the testimonies and celebration of what Jesus did on the cross over 2000 years ago — sinners saved by grace. When God looks down on earth, He celebrates us and we should in turn thank Him and celebrate the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the space we have,” he stated.
In a message of hope, the Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev. Dr Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor, said as the world grappled to deal with the life-disturbing COVID-19, Easter meant victory, thus the world would surely overcome, reports Rosalind K. Amoh.
He said the season also reminded Christians of the amazing love and the supreme power of God which had guided them along the journey and vicissitudes of life.
“God is able to win us this victory. So for all who have lost hope, remember, God is with you!
“Though our world today is threatened with a broken and diseased regime, though many are frightened because of the pandemic and others are going through, what can be termed as, faith-crisis, we should not throw our hands in to the air, as it were, to give up in disillusionment,” he said.
Rev. Dr Odonkor also called on Ghanaians to be united under the leadership of President Nana Akufo-Addo to observe all the interventions he had directed to ensure that the fight against COVID-19 was won.
The Presiding Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (A.M.E. Zion Church), Western- West Africa Episcopal District, Rt Rev. Dr Hilliard Dela Dogbe, said; “These are no ordinary or normal times in which we find ourselves. A greater part of Lent right through the Holy Week to Easter has been observed under the dark and troubling clouds of the global COVID-19 pandemic”.
In the midst of all these chaotic and troubling circumstances, he said human beings were painfully reminded of and humbled by the truth that they were frail mortals, writes Emmanuel Bonney.
“This pandemic/this viral infection does not discriminate between black or white, rich or poor, Ghanaian or Nigerian, Togolese or Guinean, Akan or Ewe, Krobo or Ga-Dangbe, Dagomba or Mossi, Muslim or Christian, Jew or Gentile, traditional believer or Buddhist, no, it is ruthless and merciless in its devastating march to infect and destroy as many people as possible irrespective of colour or creed!
“Yet the very gloom and despair that engulf our existence today makes the message and the essence of Easter even more relevant than ever,” he said.
Dr Dogbe said Easter was an embodiment of God’s unfailing and unconditional love for humanity/humankind and the ultimate sacrifice He made to restore mankind into fellowship with Himself.