Recently people headed back to their favorite sanctuaries: bars, beaches and church buildings. All the other mass gatherings have abstained (except for one specific political candidate that shall remain nameless). I cannot even go sit in most restaurants; but, if I wanted to, I could go to a rural church in my areas without a mask and without social distancing. Let me be perfectly clear, what I am suggesting is that we should not be meeting in churches at all right now.
Top 10 reason not to rush back into church.
10. You could catch and/or spread the Covid-19 virus. But, what if I’m asymptomatic? Karl, also only a small percentage of people die from the virus. Okay, but being asymptomatic just means that you don’t know you have it and you are free to spread it around everywhere. Also, you still wear seat belts even when your chances of dying are small, because it’s a best practice to protect you when something does happen. The people that will catch it and die from it are the “least of these” that we are supposed to be protecting.
There is absolutely nothing we get inside the building that can’t be found outside the walls – just because we want to go there is not a good enough reason to risk other people’s lives. My grandson is immune compromised and cannot get the treatment he needs because people are still being careless. Every pastor that selfishly ignores safeguards is being reckless with the life of their sheep, but also the lives of the people that their people will come in contract with. The best safeguard is to stay away – the country is not ready to go back to church.
9. Jesus suggested we no longer would worship in a place. Maybe this is a good time to put this into practice. We have ignored it for 2000 years. Now that we are on a break, why not make it permanent. But, even for those of you that can’t give it up cold turkey, why not just try it until the end of the year. See if you can get most of what you get inside the church outside the building. I found that I can! But, even if your experience is limited somewhat, maybe you could just revel in the knowledge that you made the world a little safer, or if you prefer, that you suffered for a good cause.
8. When you go to a building, only one person speaks. The truth is that, if we really want to hear that person speak, we could catch the online feed or just go to YouTube archives and watch several sermons. Or better yet, maybe we could just talk about the message God gave to us instead of relying on one person to feed us for the rest of our life (or at least until we find a different person to listen to). If the person that talks every time feels uncomfortable recording a message without people there, maybe that’s his/her problem – not yours.
7. We don’t need to go to a show right now. Hey, I like concerts too! The Sunday Morning show is just that – it is a show. It’s rehearsed, and it is designed to elicit an emotional response from you that fades and needs to be recharged every week. I know you are addicted to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary. For 20 years as a pastor, I talked about and heard others talk about their best experiences of worship being in their car or in nature or on a mountain, yet we continually tried to manufacture that experience every week, so people would come. I don’t need to go to church right now any more than I need to go to an Avett Brothers concert or a political rally. Especially, in this day and age, it can wait.
6. When you go to the show, they tax you. I hope you don’t take offense to the word tax, but that’s how I see it. We would not have to pay clergy to run the show if we didn’t come to the show. It’s a catch-22 that’s been going on for too long. I wish we could re-design church and make it much less centralized; but even if we don’t, right now we don’t need to be charging people just so that we can provide a service that they could get somewhere else without risking people’s lives. Currently, we are at 129,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. We shouldn’t be taxing people to participate in an experience that endangers others unnecessarily.
5. Community is everywhere. Just today, I spent time with co-worker discussing politics and religion. We stayed six feet away, wore masks and sanitized often. I talked with Laura for about an hour and shared a song that makes me think about her. I sent a message online to several people. At least once every week, I record or participate in a podcast where we listen to other people’s stories and learn from each other. I meet people almost everywhere I go. Ultimately, community is wherever I find it, not in a specific place. I also don’t need clergy to supervise my community, it’s a natural part of life. For now, my friends and I can Zoom and I don’t even have to awkwardly try to go home when I’m feeling my inner introvert calling me. Intimate places are where viruses thrive. Now is not the time for this type of community. Buildings, beaches and bars are not necessary and will only cause the vulnerable to be more greatly exposed.
4. We don’t always need to be supervised. It gives us a sense of security when someone gives us all the rules and tells us what to do, but we all have the same Spirit and should be able to discover our own path. When we do need guidance, it’s very easy to find help online. Sure, eventually, I’d love to meet with my spiritual directors; but for now, it’s more important that we do everything we can to keep people safe. Also, if you have counselors at church, they don’t meet with you on Sunday anyway.
3. It’s very rare to find true healing inside the building. I’m sure that comes across harsh to most people, but the system is usually just not designed to provide the healing we all go there looking for. We find temporary relief in the emotional shot from the show, but it fades, and we generally don’t find any space made for our grief. Of course, the staff of the organization cares, but the system really isn’t designed for healing. It’s designed to produce the show, attract new members, and support the organization. It is customary that we do these things, but during the pandemic, it doesn’t really seem that urgent to build an organization that often doesn’t meet that basic need.
2. You can get coffee at home. And you can order books on Amazon or Barns and Noble.
1. You could catch and/or spread the Covid-19 virus if you go to a gathering. That’s right, I said it again. If you want to hear a message, go online or listen to a podcast. If you need to see your friends, set up an online meeting. I find these to be extremely effective and there is no way to spread the virus on a Zoom call. Listen to some music in your car! Read a good book about prayer or practices or whatever you’re interested in and not just the prescribed courses at church. Take a walk, bake a cake, plant some flowers. Maybe you’ll discover some new practices that you never would have found otherwise.
Even though I have chosen not to participate in organized religion, I know some of you have places you love. When it’s time, go back to where you thrive – just not yet!