Churches in Nigeria hold the biggest regular institutional gatherings in the country. This is in form of Sunday services, Bible study meetings, prayer groups and other meetings.
However, Covid-19 has led to a ban on all public gatherings and every institution has sought a way to continue some form of operations. Churches all over the world are using running their services live on YouTube, TV, Zoom, Meet, Teams, Facebook Live, Webex and other Cloud meetings applications.
These have worked with mixed success, such as when a pastor in Kenya went Live on Facebook for one hour while upside down, or another one said to be in the US who forgot to switch off the mic after the ‘service’ and was heard complaining how people were not giving money yet they were demanding more blessings.
But in Nigeria, an attempt to extend the normal ‘church broadcast’ to something more personal ran into serious headwinds. Members were asked to prepare to have some bread and wine to use for Holy Communion, and were given a leeway to find something appropriate that would serve them.
But the move to bring about 100 people into one Zoom meeting proved to be a recipe for chaos. First, it was hard to get everyone to mute their mic, and so the first precious thirty minutes were wasted on housekeeping. But the real trouble came when people started displaying their communion emblems.
Instead of using some Ribena, juice or even some tea in place of wine, one man prominently had a bottle of Guinness and the worst part is that he neither made an attempt to conceal the bottle, nor did he wear a mask to cover his face.
While people had been asked to get biscuits or piece of bread to use, there were four people with plates full of jollof rice, two with a full chicken, others with complicated meals and there was one who had some roasted goat ribs.
The lead minister was not sure on how to move forward, and when the free 40 minutes of Zoom elapsed before they could do anything meaningful, he did not bother to start the meeting again. The online church was over.
A message that was circulated in various church WhatsApp groups asked the members to proceed with the Holy Communion whichever way they saw fit, and blamed technical error on the hitch.