Phase 1 of the easement of restrictions has hit the airwaves and it has caused a firestorm of activity and questions. Churches were among those in the first wave that were legally permitted to open… with appropriate safeguards in place. Many did not stop to read the second part of the pronouncement, much as they did with Jesus commandments. Like a starting gun at a race we humans are ready to run before we even know the course! How many of us wait until we hit a snag or find an “extra” part before we read the directions because “well we know how to do it?” I have learned to rein in my enthusiasm as experience has taught me that the 5 extra minutes spent reading the directions before starting, can save untold hours and angst later.
So what would church really look like, if we truly loved our neighbor enough to protect them as best as we could from a virus for which we still have no effective treatment or vaccine? We must remember that this virus can be transmitted before anyone even has an inkling that they have it. We must also be mindful that this virus is particularly dangerous and often deadly to those who have a whole host of underlying medical issues.
Given that we know that the only effective (but not guaranteed) weapons we have are physical distance and face coverings: I would need to wear a face shield and keep 1 microphone for my personal use. There could be no hymnals, singing, touching, or serving communion. Greeters would be masked and gloved. We would have to sanitize the pews as best we could after each use and would have to mark appropriate 6’ spacing. And that is just in the sanctuary! The bathrooms, door handles, classrooms, toys, and anything else anyone might touch or breathe on would have to be sanitized after each use. There would absolutely be no putting our mitts on shared coffee urns or cookie trays. Each person would need to be 6’ apart and everyone would be required to wear a face covering. As the longer one is in an enclosed space the more risk, we would have to limit our services to a brief 30 – 45 minutes at the max. and encourage people to enter at the last minute and leave as soon as service was over. Does that really sound like “church” to you?
Not wanting to spend another lonely (and dangerous) winter alone in our family home after the summer people had headed south, my mom took an apartment in town. She loved it when the winter winds blew and snow piled up. However as soon as that first crocus poked its head through the slightly frozen ground she longed to be back home. Unfortunately she had experienced some failing health over the winter. She was more than frustrated with how long it took to complete some safety accommodations before she could move in. But after she arrived, her thrill soon faded. Perplexed, I inquired. She said, “When you long for home, you always imagine being in it when you were young.” Which calls to mind…How are we imagining church?
Just as things had to be different for my mom, things have to be different for us too. So perhaps instead of chomping at the bit, counting down the weeks in frustration as if we’re making a prison break, while we are waiting for effective treatments and vaccines to arrive; we could be doing all we can do to live out what Jesus is calling us to do NOW. Jesus has not taken a pause from His work so why should we? We have a message to deliver, people to invite, parties to enjoy, relationships to build, and worship to grow in and through. The pandemic may change the way we do things but not what we are called to do. Truth be told nothing is stopping us but ourselves. So what are we waiting for?