Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

Published August 1, 2021, 5:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The pandemic has put most of the world at a standstill, but the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church, 107 years since its founding, has kept growing and moving forward

By ABBIE VALLE-SELGA

BEACON OF HOPE Iglesia Ni Cristo Central Temple, Quezon City (George Maniego)

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, our lives drastically changed, As we bade goodbye to our old sense of normalcy, we realized too soon, even as we tried so hard to be in denial, that some parts of our lives would simply never be the same.

“Would it even be considered a pagsamba (worship service) if it were not held face to face?” I asked my fellow deaconess at one Iglesia Ni Cristo locale of Talon, District of Metro Manila South Church Officers Meeting. I received a nod of uncertainty.

Fast forward to July 27, 2021—almost one year and four months since cities and provinces, not just in the Philippines but throughout the world, were placed in varying levels of community quarantine in the hopes of containing the spread of COVID-19—the Iglesia Ni Cristo celebrates its 107th anniversary of being registered in the Philippines by the late Brother Felix Y. Manalo, God’s messenger in these last days.

If these were “ordinary times,” my family and I would have been at the world’s largest multipurpose theater, the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena by now, together with my brethren, holding our grand gathering and massive evangelical mission and perhaps enjoying a family-friendly concert after.

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But these are extraordinary times, hence, the absence of mass gatherings. Instead, the Iglesia Ni Cristo let the government use at no cost the entire Ciudad De Victoria estate located in Bocaue, Bulacan to isolate and quarantine COVID-19 cases.

Baptisms across the globe while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols were held in jurisdictions like Vanuatu in Australia, Copenhagen in Denmark, Athens in Greece, Petit Goave in Haiti, Kaunas in Lithuania, Constanta in Romania, Boras in Sweden, Anaheim in California, and Temple Hills in Maryland.

With in-person events nowhere in sight, the word of God still reached more people during the pandemic than ever before. Just last week, July 24, the Iglesia Ni Cristo gathered more than what the Philippine Arena could accommodate through a livestreamed Thanksgiving worship service to God led by the Church’s executive minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, held at the Central Temple in Quezon City. Unhindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, various congregations from all over the world took part. Also during the worship service, six worship buildings were dedicated to God—two in Canada: Markham, Greater Toronto and Surrey, British Columbia; and four in the Philippines: Naawan, Cagayan de Oro City; Marabulig II, Isabela East; Old Centro, Isabela South; and Sta. Madia, Maddela, Quirino, bringing the total of concrete houses of worship constructed and dedicated to God by the Iglesia Ni Cristo during the pandemic to 143 worldwide.

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Established in 158 countries and territories, the Iglesia Ni Cristo continues to grow and increase in membership even during the pandemic. Local congregations in places like Kissimmee in Florida, Blue Mountain in Greater Toronto, and Tauranga in New Zealand have been established. Group worship services were rendered in Pisa, Italy and in Shoshoni in Wyoming. Baptisms across the globe while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols were held in jurisdictions like Vanuatu in Australia, Copenhagen in Denmark, Athens in Greece, Petit Goave in Haiti, Kaunas in Lithuania, Constanta in Romania, Boras in Sweden, Anaheim in California, and Temple Hills in Maryland. Ecclesiastical districts have also been formed in Bulacan North, Caloocan North, and San Carlos City, Pangasinan. Even in places stricken by civil unrest like Haiti, the local congregation of Bo Letan was established. Group worship services in Decouvert and Losier were put in place.

As the needs of the church continue to grow, more properties are purchased for future renovations such as those in Pacifica, California and Dordrecht, Netherlands. Two new eco farming projects are also set to begin in Canada with 152 acres of land purchased in Beausejour, Manitoba and 153 acres in New Brunswick.

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Truly, the hand of God does not stop even during a pandemic. To continue to shine as a beacon of hope, the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s outreach efforts for our fellowmen intensified through our Lingap sa Mamamayan or Aid to Humanity events. Assistance was extended more than just care packages to communities worldwide, from Melton in Australia to the Dominican Republic, from St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Philippines to the One Heart for Women and Children non-profit in Florida in the US. These completed projects across the regions, especially during the time of a worldwide pandemic, are a solid evidence that God’s promises are true and that nothing can hinder His plans.

If you ask me today: “Would it even be considered a pagsamba (worship service) if it were not held face to face?” My answer is a resounding yes. No matter what the future holds or how grave the tribulations may come, we can bow our heads down in prayer and know that we have an extraordinary God who always listens and whose measures are equally extraordinary.

Happy 107th anniversary, Iglesia Ni Cristo!

Visit the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) official website at http://iglesianicristo.net.

Abbie Valle-Selga is a wife and mom first, entrepreneur and multipassionate second. She is an Iglesia Ni Cristo member and deaconess at the Locale of Talon, District of Metro Manila South. Visit www.bequalshappiness.com for more information.

 
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