Saturday, May 23, 2020
Worshipping in Place
I know, I know, I've addressed the subject of church re-openings recently but I just have to revisit it because of the Emperor Trump. He has issued an imperial to allow congregations to gather in the faithful, and he will make it so, even if he has to override the decisions of state governors to do so. Of course Trump doesn't go to church because he plays golf on weekends and I have to agree with Pope Francis who commented that given Trump's actions and policies it's unlikely that he is a Christian.
Trump is a desperate politician who has seen an alarming decline in his support amongst evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians (finally!) They tend to be older and vulnerable to the coronavirus and Trump's response to the COVID-19 crisis has been abysmal. So, pretend you're on the side of religious freedom and use your magic royal sceptre to open the locked doors of places of worship!
Here is is though. Many congregations in the US have defied closures and they have paid the price. Thirty Pentecostal pastors in the south have died of COVID -- that's right, thirty. A priest at a Houston church died after legally reopening and because of the death they've closed again. There are lots of other examples in the States and in other parts of the world. Needless to say, congregants have also tested positive and some have died.
I'm relieved that many religious bodies in the US are convinced that keeping places of worship closed is the right decision and will not comply with what's-his-names huffing and puffing.
So far most congregations of various faiths here in Canada have complied with closures. Thank God we don't have a fool like the emperor encouraging people to try quack remedies for COVID-19, or using worship for political gain.
I will remind you that there is a petition by a group of pastors asking Ontario Premier Ford to allow congregations to assemble beginning in June. Their request includes limiting gathering size, us of sanitizer and using an honour system to affirm a lack of symptoms or travel outside the country. But some people would struggle to follow those guidelines, perhaps with a misguided belief that God would protect them. And not all congregations have the same resources to ensure safety. While reopening will eventually happen, I do hope that the petition is ignored in the shorter term.
We really must consider staying home from worship as the loving and faith choice, for this unprecedented moment.
Yes, we are struggling and even suffering from the loss of physical community. Yes, there are people who are finding the loneliness difficult to bear. But there are also a host of creative ways by which congregations are "gathering" and even celebrating the sacraments.
Stay strong folks, keep in touch with members of your faith family, and remember that the body of Christ is centred in the One who embodies sacrificial love.