Gathering to worship, but at what cost?

Do you remember the nursery rhyme where you put your hands together in a prayer position and say ‘Here is the church’ and you open up your hands and say ‘here are the people’? It almost seems archaic now as churches have been empty since the pandemic hit in March. However, some churches in town are opening up again and holding in-person services, but with safety plans in place.

I’m wondering if now is the right time to be welcoming back churchgoers as COVID-19 cases are creeping up in B.C. and the safety plans feel more like exclusion plans.

All of the churches that I’ve heard of that are reopening are holding services with a limit of 50 people. That is the law. Any indoor in-person gathering must be capped at 50. But how do you choose who can go to church? Some places of worship are holding two services and you must sign up ahead of time. What about the visitors? Do they knock and no one answers? Or does the innkeeper tell them there is no room?

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Other churches are assigning groups that have the privilege to attend service that Sunday. Again, this only allows certain people access to a building that should be open to everyone.

Even with services on, I haven’t heard of a church that is doing Sunday school or nursery. That means parents of young children will not be able to attend because what two-year-old can sit through a service? That’s another group that churches are not including.

Besides turning a church service into a private event— which is the exact opposite of what a church is supposed to be. Aren’t Christians called to be stewards of the Earth and take care of those within it?

Elderly people make up a large portion of church families … and those at the highest risk for severe coronavirus symptoms. By opening up services, the elderly are either risking their lives to attend or feeling guilty for skipping a service because they aren’t comfortable being around groups. Excluding some members of society so that you can worship, in my mind, defeats the purpose of worship.

The Northern Health Region saw a spike in COVID-19 cases last month after a group of people attended a prayer gathering in Alberta. That should be a wake-up call. No one is immune. It hits close to home, physically and metaphorically.

I understand people miss the connection, to each other and to God. And I know people have worked hard on their safety plans in order to hold services.

I don’t have all the answers but I feel it is better and safer to have small bible study groups— like most churches are already organizing; keep connecting with one another and watch or listen to a church service online.

These are weird times and no one knows what is going to happen with this virus or how to get back to normal, but we are all in this together, let’s make sure we are all included.


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