Christian churches in Balanga cancel worship services after COVID-19 outbreak at religious gathering

Published August 2, 2020, 9:50 AM

by Shirley Matias Pizarro

BALANGA, Bataan — At least 34 pastors from 18 different Christian member-churches of the Balanga Ministerial Fellowship (MBF) have agreed to cancel indefinitely the holding of physical worship services at their respective churches in the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the province that was traced to those who attended a religious gathering last July 19 at a hotel in this city.

The pastors signed a letter of support sent to Bataan Gov. Albert S. Garcia on Saturday, August 1, favoring online worship services as an alternative platform to the Sunday worship services. 

As of the latest count, 49 persons, including an additional eight patients reported on Saturday, have already been confirmed positive for COVID-19 in relation to this latest outbreak in Bataan. The number is comprised of worshippers who either attended the religious gathering or were exposed to those who were present last July 19. 

With this, Bataan has already breached the 400-mark with the latest COVID-19 statistics released by the Provincial Health Office (PHO). There are now 413 confirmed positive for COVID-19, including the 251 who have already recovered and 12 who have died. 

The BMF, led by Chairman Alzor Tapia, Senior Pastor of Victory Church Balanga and Orani, pledged its full cooperation “to ease the escalating burden on our Local Government Unit (LGU) in finding solutions in this challenging time.” 

BMF earlier held a meeting with Balanga City Mayor Francis Garcia where they discussed an action plan that puts a premium on the safety of the congregation and focuses on the churches’ social responsibility in the community.

Mayor Garcia urged the pastors to favor the online way of worship services to make sure that there will no longer be a repeat of the contamination that happened at the religious gathering at a hotel in his city last July 19. 

For his part, Gov. Garcia lauded the pastors’ proactive stance and their willingness to help curb the rising statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are trying our very best to prevent overwhelming our health care system in Bataan. We do not want what’s happening in Metro Manila to happen to us. We are thankful to the pastors for doing this. Their cooperation and prayers are valuable to the government efforts,” the governor said.

The churches represented by the BMF are The Word of Hope Assembly of God, Church So Blessed, Community Discipleship Center International Inc., Christ Harvest Tabernacle Ministry, Landmark Bible Baptist Church, Word of Life Church, Jesus Covenant Maker International Ministry, Blessed Beloved Favored in Christ Church, Jesus is Lord,  Jesus Christ the Consolidator, His Touch Ministry, All by God’s Grace Church, Victory Church, 1st Assembly of God Church, Jesus Christ the Light and Salvation Ministries, The Light Church, T-net and Lord Jesus Fellowship.

As of August 1, Bataan has recorded 150 active COVID-19 cases and 181 people in quarantine awaiting results of their swabbed PCR tests.

Bataan is one of the few provinces whose real time COVID-19 statistics can be accessed via its own Dashboard monitoring link