- Some believe outdoor worship is a safe alternative.
- Some believe we can socially distance in worship gatherings.
- Some believe that this whole COVID 19 situation is overblown.
- Some believe that this whole COVID 19 thing is an elaborate hoax.
What do we do when members of our congregations insist on reopening and the pastor disagrees? What happens when the pastors and other leaders themselves are particularly vulnerable to the virus? What happens when some members declare that NOT gathering is a sign of faithlessness in Jesus the Great Physician?
Well, we have a wealth of theological conversations to have here, don’t we?
- The Great Commandment declares that we are to love Jesus with our hearts, with our souls, and with our minds. My grandmother used to say, “It’s amazing what the LORD has let us learn.” God expects us to use our brains. God created science and scientists.
- Tempting God is not cool. Anybody who says, “I’m going to lick this door knob to show how God is going to save me from the COVID” is tempting God. Note that the devil quotes scripture here but is taking it out of context.
- We are called to look out for “the least of these.” This means that while I might be healthy or at least asymptomatic, I need to look out for those with auto-immune issues or other factors that might make them vulnerable.
There have been tweets going around asking, “Do you know anyone personally who has had COVID-19?” as if they personally do not and so it’s not real. If you do not know one of the 25,676 (as of May 7, 2020) people in the United States or one of the 3.5 million cases in the world (as of 8:27 am ET May 8, 2020) or at least are connected by only two degrees to someone with COVID-19, you are quite sheltered and extraordinarily fortunate.**
I will share that everyone I know who has died of COVID-19 so far has been a black or brown person. But that’s for another post.
As a follower of Jesus trying to bring justice to “the least of these” and trying to “make earth as it is in heaven” I hear and share personal stories about the things that break God’s heart which I’ve seen with my own eyes: domestic violence, child abuse, systemic racism, systemic sexism, hunger, homelessness – all in our own neighborhoods and communities. One of my cousins lives in the county where Armaud Arbery was murdered while jogging one day in February. You don’t have to tell her there is systemic racism in her community.
But so many of my siblings in Christ resist these truths. They don’t believe the stories. They call even government statistics exaggerations or lies.
What do we do about the resisters? What do we do about those who have to see evidence with their own eyes – and even then – do not try to stop the injustice and pain?
- We love them. (We might not like them but we are commanded to love them because they too are Children of God.)
- We tell stories of what we’ve personally witnessed – not as weapons but as tools for building empathy.
- We remind them what Jesus says about how we are supposed to live.
If “getting back to church” as soon as possible is about returning to comforting experiences and familiar faces and personal enjoyment, we are missing the point of The Church of Jesus Christ. Church is not about you.
If it’s about being the Church, even during a dangerous pandemic, we will adapt to different ways to worship, to offer comfort to others, to care for those impacted by this crisis the most. Church is about us.
I’m in no hurry to “get back to church” because – actually – I am in church, I am doing church, I am part of the Church now more than ever. I hope you are feeling that too.
Image from KXAN in Texas.
** My numbers here are low. Those were per day cases.