Bethel New Gospel Church on Benny Road, Valencia, closed yesterday.

The Council of Evangelical Churches is insisting that churches should be considered essential.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Council said that the English word “church” is derived from the Greek “Kuriake” meaning “that which belongs to the Lord.”

It said, therefore, the primary allegiance of the church is to the Lord Jesus Christ and that the word essential means ‘absolutely necessary’ or extremely important.

“Essential businesses are ones that the public rely on in their day-to-day life. By this definition, the church is ‘absolutely necessary’ especially in this season of pandemic,” the statement added.

The Council said that during the last few lockdowns, the church had been branded as non-essential and most recently was labelled under the umbrella of entertainment.

“A clear picture must be painted of who the church is and what we represent in the context of being an essential service. The church is the only entity that does not exist solely for its members. Compared to other organisations, it is the entity that has the most volunteers actively involved in serving communities around the nation,” the statement said.

It noted that the church has been instructed by Jesus to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, adding that this includes, among many other acts of service, meeting the needs of the poor, visiting orphans and widows, praying for the government, praying and counselling hurting families, and discipling nations.

“The integrity and trust God has placed in the hands of churches should be complemented by those in authority. The church has at all times displayed maturity and has in every instance been complicit with governmental regulations. Therefore, as the council we are making it clear that this is not an effort at discrediting government’s efforts but an attempt at seeking more collaboration and helping those in authority to understand the reason for our existence and thereby find ways so we can add value to what they are doing,” the statement said.

It went on to say that an example of this collaborative effort was the government’s request of the churches to assist in the management of the distribution of hampers across the nation.

“Due to our involvement in meeting the needs of people in the communities on a daily basis, we were seen by the state as the most fitting entity in ensuring that the most vulnerable will benefit from this distribution. This distribution was ‘essential,’ as such the government would not have chosen a ‘non-essential service’ to fill an essential need.

Without this type of synergy, the depressed, the suicidal, the abused, and the addicted just to mention a few in this sordid catalogue, will continue to show up at the closed doors of our churches only to leave with more pain. Who will account for this conundrum?”

The statement added, “Many of our frontline workers are church members. Their motivation to serve is not based upon their remuneration package but their faith in God. Several of our public servants in the highest fields of endeavour in this nation serve with distinction only because of their relationship with God.”

It noted that there is a financial decline as well in some churches.

“Many churches are finding it difficult to meet their financial obligations and there are instances of pastors not being paid. These are some of the debilitating effects of the church being described as non-essential. The church is not created for entertainment but for the empowerment of its members and communities through service. The church serves on earth, but its allegiance is to the Lord. We may appear to be non-essential but to the Lord the church is essential because it is through the church other entities are empowered.”