There was a widely shared news story over the weekend about a particular church in Calgary, Alberta with 24 cases of COVID-19 among its members. Two of those members did not survive.
It was mid March – just as wide spread quarantines were getting started in the western hemisphere. 42 members of Living Spirit United Church had attended worship followed by a birthday party for a beloved member. The church did all the right things:
- There was social distancing.
- There was hand washing.
- There were less than 50 people present.
- There were safety gloves.
As some of our congregations consider reopening in the coming weeks, I hope we listen to scientists. And I also hope we listen to Church People who wish they’d been even more cautious. The Pastor of LSUC Rev. Shannon Mang offers this reflection:
There seems to be this huge divide between those who’ve experienced (COVID-19) and the majority who haven’t. Think about the oldest person that you hang out with and visit and take care of. Are you willing to give them up?
Many of us don’t believe it’s a problem – or it’s not as big a problem as the media is reporting. Some say we are wasting time not opening up our church buildings again.
As with so many things in life, we don’t believe it unless we see some evidence. We need to know someone who has personally had COVID-19. Or we need to have less than two degrees of separation from a COVID-19 victim.
Look at the lovely face of Dennis Edmund Morey pictured above. He was one of the members of Living Spirit United Church who recently passed away with complications related to COVID-19. He attended the March 15 worship service and birthday gathering.
Mr. Morey could be a member of our church. I can see him as one of our ushers or one of our elders or a member of the choir.
Picture your favorite member of the deacons. Picture the woman who leads the Tuesday morning Bible Study. Picture the ladies who volunteer in the office on Friday. Are we willing to lose these people – real human beings – so that we can return to worship in our sanctuaries?
A wise colleague pointed out yesterday that there is a certain generation of church people who will always attend Sunday morning worship services if they possibly can. If the church building is open, they will be there out of devotion to God. It could be snowing. There might be a tornado warning. Perhaps there’s a pandemic.
We need to think of this generation before we open up our church buildings.
Yes, we miss each other terribly. We miss seeing each other apart from screens. But we need to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe. Rev. Mang wishes they could go back in time and cancel that March worship service and birthday party.
This time next year, I hope that our Church Leaders can look back and feel confident that we did what we could to keep vulnerable people safe. The Bible says something about this too.
Image of Mr. Dennis Edmund Morey, beloved husband of one, father of four, grandfather of five.