The readability meter is definitely frowning as I compose this message, so I’m popping back to the beginning of the text to say this disability mom wishes she had the time and energy and wisdom to fix readability. I hope you bear with me anyway.
But I blather: Cliff’s notes: We’re going to return to worship during the Covid-19 crisis. If social distancing is widely and strictly observed for a long time, we will not be able to survive spiritually without returning before the many months it will take to build protective immunity in our population. If social distancing is abandoned population wide, we are going to need each other to comfort and minister to one another in the sudden wake of deaths that ensue.
Tomorrow, my precious church will host a crucial meeting to discuss our next steps for physically and spiritually protecting our flock as the quarantine drags on with no scheduled end, or predictions for how long far they plan to expand our season without herd immunity to the coronavirus.
We can take measures to protect our people.
We can have people call a specified number as they arrive at church and alert them that it is their turn to enter the building.
We can schedule multiple early services for the elderly, diabetic and immunocompromised to attend church with mask policy, handwash, and 12-foot social distancing carefully enforced.
We can arrange church services for the younger populations based on the letter of their last name– for certain sections of the alphabet to attend one week, and not another, with less social distancing, but still with masks and hand sanitizer, to reduce crowding. We can eliminate children’s programs and bear with the wiggling and squirming and noisemaking
We can turn off air conditioning units within the church building to avoid redepositing contagion.
But we need to have church, because people need church… and I hope they benefit from my own church.
Online services meet some needs, but are unable to meet others. Our brains react differently to the sight of screen based images than they do to the presence of objects. Screen use alone creates neurological damage minute by minute. Yes, we all want the emotional fortitude to live in quarantine for months on end without human contact… but it doesn’t exist. God’s first commentary on human existence is that it is not good for man to be alone. And yet there’s a lot of shamy-shamy raising of pitchforks against the many Christians who echo His sentiment.
Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. The church is widely known for accidentally but boldly blaming the depressed for their own depressive brain chemistry instead of providing the social support that is scientifically proven to protect against it…. but I digress. We be human, we be making mistakes.
We’ve been trying to hide from the spread of coronavirus, far below the threshold needed to prevent flooding of hospital and ventilator use. We need to use God’s gifts to create victorious, eternal hope in our daily lives, and rest in that. I don’t mean this callously or recklessly, but believe it solemnly that we stand face to face with the reality that we will have to leave quarantine eventually, and work to fight this disease medically before it can finish its dreadful work.
It is important that we bear with one another, and I believe that Pastor R. Loren Sandford put this best in the following YouTube video:
But before I leave, I must say a few words about how much I really do care to get this right.
I LOVE my church. I chose this church to fill three specific needs:
- I needed a church with the courage to define sin according to the will and testament of scripture, and not according to current trends of social behavior and scientific interpretation, as evidenced most clearly in a willingness to say that we cannot serve our LGBTQ++ population by describing transgender presentation or same-sex sexual connection as pure and holy.
- I needed a church that was capable of looking past the temporarily severe mental disability (limited to time living by the laws of biology on earth) of my daughter and expose her to spiritually rich content while we as parents pursued enriching spiritual formation at church
- I needed a church that actively sought ways to serve those whose social and spiritual needs have been neglected due to race, sexual abuse, divorce, sexual orientation, poverty, (insert excuse to be ungodly and hateful here). I’d seen “truth in love” abused too much. I had seen “cursed be canaan” misinterpreted by people I loved who should have know better but seemed unable to reach a holy understanding even with pastoral input. I needed rest from carrying that burden. I needed the joy of a church with a servant’s heart to love the least of these.
I have only been attending this church for four years, and it took a lot of dying to self to become a member, because they don’t hold some of the same salvific views I do (and don’t view my salvific views as salvation issues.) The fruit of their lives, though, was evidence enough of surrender to the will of God, and I continue to believe in their surrender. One of the most moving stories in the history of this particular church was the relationship-alterating battle to continue to count homosexual actions sinful. I was convinced that this church was willing to preach a gospel that would bring every level of its’ members lives closer to God, if their members were able to bear it. I was also touched by their determination to bring insight and blessing to those whose spiritual muscles were unable to bear the same. To have lost friends in the process… that is a pain I cannot imagine. I met someone in the community once, where I believe I intuited –mostly from their inability to express some discomfort–their internal struggle with the arguments that ensued and the pain that resulted…and felt that agony with her.
My heart hurts for the upcoming discussions within my heavenly Daddy’s beautiful bride. We are each a member of Christ’s body, mere cells among a couple billion cells around the world, with almost every one being expressly forbidden by their governments from touching or standing or in some cases, parking their cars in sighting distance of one another…
Under these political circumstances, it is very difficult for the hands to see how much the feet love them, or for the heart to feel how hard the mind is working to protect it from the emotional wounds of watching disproportionate death tolls in communities that have endured many years or centuries of discrimination and poor provision in the Americas.
The right wing has abandoned liberals for far too long within the Church. We have always needed their insight to cushion the hearts of the needy. They are integral to our existence. Liberals need those who can remove emotional pain as we evaluate whether or precious, shared dreams of social justice can be realized without creating new social fallout and creating new temptations to unforseen forms of social injustice. We know that the gospel has always been tugged right and left, caught between fleshly temptation to either prove our ability to *either* save the world in the fleshly power of our own self-sacrifice *or* to refuse to lift a hand to help our neighbor with the hopes that we can wait until our faith moves mountains to say that the movement is God’s will.
If we rest purely on self-sacrifice, we reflect the character of Judas, who took Jesus’ sacrifice into his own power and tried to buy it back with the fruits of his own betrayal. If we refuse to act when we see need, we forget James, the brother of Christ, who cautions us to measure our faith by the way our actions imitate the character of the God whose Fatherhood we would like to claim….”show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do”
I wish I could scoop up the hearts of every member of my church today like I used to hold baby bunnies- under my arm, so that I could cuddle their frightened eyes where they saw none of the forces that were beyond their comprehension. To bring each panicked, fluttering heart back into the calm rhythm that results naturally from our eternal and peace-generating gratitude that we are held in the hands of an Almighty, who has gifted us with the power and self-discipline to protect every one of our shared interests:
-to protect loved ones from depression, drug abuse and alcohol abuse; bearing with them in their struggles according to 1 Corinthians 3, and holding ourselves responsible for fellowship that reduces temptation to sin (Hebrews 10).
-the need for social support–which research shows is most beneficial when it stems from the natural interactions we have in daily life.
-Food production is threatened… protecting some lives for a time, perhaps, but risking many other lives, with great certainty.
-Economic empowerment reduces deaths from social ills listed above. Quarantine has visibly disrupted economic leverage for all social classes.
-sheltered environments for vulnerable populations