For the first time in the history of Christianity in Cross River state, Church leaders have rescheduled their traditional crossover service to Thursday evening, saying doing so was in compliance with the government’s directives on stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our reporter gathered that many Churches in Calabar, the Cross River state capital, had earlier fixed their crossover service to usher in the New Year between the hours of 8pm and 12/1 am of the following day, January 1, 2021, but government’s insistence on compliance with the 10 pm to 5 am curfew, backed by the state chapter of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), may have caused Church leaders in the state to change their mind.
The state government had, through Gov Ben Ayade’s Senior Special Adviser on Religious Matters, Fr. Bob B. Etta, in a circular, reminded Churches that “The present curfew between 10:00pm – 6:00am is still in place,” and advised Church leaders to “fix their Cross Over services within the time permitted and enforce the laid down protocols for COVID19.”
Checks at the Headquarters of the Intercessors Bible Mission (IBM) indicated that the service was initially arranged for 8pm of Thursday to terminate at the early hours of Friday, but a statement from the office of the Church’s resident Pastor, Bishop Ofonmbuk Archibong, wife of the vision career of the ministry, Archbishop Archibong Archibong, said the service was shifted to 6pm.
“Beloved, greetings. The cross over service has been rescheduled to hold Tomorrow Thursday, December 31st by 6pm to 9pm at IBM Headquarters. Kindly notify others on the change in time. We must Take Over 2021. See you there with family and friends,” the statement, made available to our reporter on Wednesday night, stated.
In a telephone chat with our reporter, Archbishop Archibong explained that “staying all night as initially planned would have been very stressful. Rescheduling the service to 6pm will give us the strength to come again for our New Year servive. When we dismiss by 9pm today Thursday, members can still pray in their homes with their family members from 12 am to whenever they want to. Besides, we try as much as possible not to disobey government’s directives.”
Our reporter who also monitored development at the Christian Central Chapel Int’l (CCCI) in Ikot Enebong, said the cross over service was equally adjusted in what the Presiding Bishop of the Church, Bishop Emmah Isong, said was also in obedience to the authorities.
A press statement from the office of Bishop, CCCI, made available to our reporter and titled ‘Change of Time for Passover/Prophetic Service,’ said “Due to a very recent government directives (and we are obedient people), we have adjusted our Passover service to start 2pm and end by 7.30pm Thursday 31st December, 2020.”
Rev Daniel Ubi of El-Shaddai Gospel Ministry in Calabar South, who also spoke to our reporter on the matter, said “since the Bible says we should obey government, we cannot do otherwise. We are having our cross over service between the hours of 6 and 8 pm on Thursday.”
Our reporter further gathered that while many Churches in the state capital had preferred to review backward their usual cross over night service time, other elected to cancel their own completely so as to concentrate on the New Year service. Few others, however, preferred taking their cross over services to about 6 am of January 1, 2020 and sacrificing the New Year service in the process.