As the Morrison Government activates a national emergency response plan to coronavirus, reacting to concern that a global pandemic will be declared, China and Singapore provide glimpses of what might be ahead for churches.
Bible Society’s China partnership reports that “based on our sources, as part of the Level 1 emergency response for public health emergency in China, all services in registered churches and large group gatherings across the nation have been suspended since the end of January.”
“It was a liberating feeling … knowing that my body has won the fight against the virus with the prayers of the saints.” – Wilson Teo
While the nation where the Covid-19 crisis began has suspended church services, Singapore – where the BSC team is based – is a mixed bag: “Some of our mega-churches like City Harvest are streaming their services live. The Catholic Church in Singapore have temporarily suspended all masses, congregants are tuning in online for mass and teachings.”
“Other Protestant churches have stepped up on precautionary measures like temperature recording, sign-in forms … while still resuming with their services.”
Assemblies of God Senior Pastor Wilson Teo became Covid-19 case number 48 in Singapore. His church, Grace Assembly of God, has been closed during the outbreak. In a message to its members – reported by Salt and Light (a Singapore news site similar to Eternity), he wrote: “Just hours ago, a doctor informed me that I was officially a COVID-19 survivor, and I could go home to hug my family!”
Teo was his church’s second Covid-19 survivor to get the all-clear.
“It was a liberating feeling walking out of NCID (National Centre for Infectious Diseases), knowing that my body has won the fight against the virus with the prayers of the saints.”
“I am grateful for this memorable experience, as I am convinced that God’s purpose for Grace Assembly will be achieved through this trial.”
In his letter, he expressed his gratitude to NCID’s medical team. “My respect has grown exponentially for the doctors and nurses who are serving at the frontline with infected patients. They are always cheering me on and encouraging me with their smiles and positive attitude, while risking their lives in the process,” he wrote.
Italy has followed the Chinese lead and closed churches in affected areas, along with schools and sporting fixtures.
Closer to home, in a message to Sydney Anglican churches, archbishop Glenn Davies urged them to “be aware of the dangers that the virus presents and take any necessary precautions for the safety of our congregations”.
“We acknowledge community concern about the incidences of infection in Australia and we express our sadness at the extent of the sickness, and especially the death, of many people affected by the disease in China,” the Archbishop wrote.
“We encourage prayer for those affected families and for governments and health care workers seeking to address and constrain the outbreak, both in China as well as in Australia.”
The Government’s emergency response plan if implemented would involve “cancelling large gatherings” but the PM told the ABC that “there is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people.”
“You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket.”