No plans yet for non-Catholic churches to suspend services over Covid-19

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship says most churches have not reduced their activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

PETALING JAYA: Non-Catholic churches here have no plans to suspend services yet over the Covid-19 pandemic, with one national Christian association saying they will await a directive from Putrajaya before mulling such a move.

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) said churches would continue holding services while they monitor the situation.

“It all depends on how bad the situation is. If it is extremely bad, then yes (we will suspend services).

“We will follow the advice of the health ministry,” NECF secretary-general Rev Andy Chi told FMT.

He said the council had issued an advisory on precautionary measures for its members to curb the spread of infection.

He said most churches like his, the Good Shepherd Church in Selayang, provide hand sanitiser and remind their congregations about good hygiene practices and the need to take extra precautions.

“But we tell those who are sick to stay home. For the time being, we don’t encourage handshakes and we sanitise the church,” he added.

Chi also said most churches had not reduced their activities, although the outbreak had forced them to tweak some rituals to ensure less direct contact among congregants.

Yesterday, Catholic churches in West Malaysia suspended weekday and weekend masses until March 29 in view of the pandemic.

Putrajaya said it would consider issuing a directive to mosques to cancel the weekly Friday prayers if the Covid-19 pandemic does not show signs of improvement in the coming days.

Newly appointed minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, also issued a four-point guideline for Muslims attending religious congregations, following health authorities’ confirmation that a man who attended a three-day convention at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur had contracted Covid-19.

A reverend from a church in Ara Damansara said his congregation would not suspend services but would “continue to meet together for weekend worship service”.

Rev Mark Chen added that his congregants are taking the usual precautions such as using the hand sanitiser provided by the church.

He said it was up to their discretion whether to wear masks, although if any of them were unwell, they would usually do so without being told.

“Not going to church doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. In fact, you’re probably safer in the church,” he quipped.

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president RS Mohan Shan meanwhile urged Hindus to avoid places of worship for now to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.

He said this was in line with the health ministry’s advice about the pandemic.

Those who are suffering from cough or fever, meanwhile, are urged to take extra precautions to avoid public spaces.

“Devotees intending to visit temples, especially the thiruvizhas at temples or Maha Kumbhabhisekam where thousands of people gather, are advised to avoid such celebrations for their own health.

“Those participating in such celebrations must take the necessary precautions such as wearing surgical masks and washing their hands.”