Reflections, and Resources, for Christians Who Can’t Go to Church during the COVID-19 Lockdown
If I attend church this morning, I could be fined $1,000 or imprisoned for 90 days.
In small-town, midwestern America.
I’m not a convict.
I’m not a fugitive.
I’m not infected (to the best of my knowledge) with COVID-19.
But, just in case, last Sunday my church told everyone to stay home.
Yes, last Sunday, it was against the church to go to church. (They provided a videostream service instead.)
This Sunday, today, it is against the state to go to church. I could get arrested just for trying.
Not a dream.
Not quite a nightmare, either.
More like a tragedy. “Tragedy,” in the tradition of the Greek playwrights, had a peculiar meaning: it wasn’t just that the story ended in sadness, but rather that it must do so, that it inescapably would have a bad ending, and, moreover, the main characters knew this but were powerless to do anything about it. They act, and sometimes aim to act freely, but always, it is as if someone else is pulling their puppet strings.
If we could do it all over again, what would we do differently?
Since we can’t go back to re-do any of it differently, what should we do now?
Following are some resources to help you think through how we got to where we are, and how we might get to where we’d like to be. There is no formal position statement here. Even if I tried to write one, it would be obsolete by the time you read it, in this rapidly changing COVID-19 era. I offer simply some food for thought and some resources for encouragement—including some timeless resources.
Is the Church the Problem or the Solution?
- A New York Times editorial blames Christians for being (supposedly) anti-science and thereby thwarting (supposedly) scientific methods for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
- A Los Angeles Times op-ed exonerates Christians for using the common cup for Holy Communion, citing scientific studies that show this is just as safe as using individual cups.
Must Services Be Canceled? (Dare We Postpone Easter?)
- An article in the Federalist expressed hope that social distancing could be prudently practiced while people continued to gather for public worship.
- The Lutheran worship experts (or, better to say: “divine service” experts) at Gottesdienst caution against rescheduling Easter Sunday in view of prohibitions against attendance. They also offer suggestions for marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ whenever congregations do resume meeting publicly, noting that every Sunday is a mini Easter anyway.
- A Georgian Orthodox Church has labeled the closing of churches as “an unjustified offense against God.”
- Minnesota’s Executive Order 20–20 exempts clergy as “essential” workers, “wherever their services may be needed,” which would seem to permit pastors to make home visits, while the main thrust of the order is to prohibit any public gathering (including, obviously, worship service at the church).
- The President of Brazil, by contrast, has exempted churches from the general prohibition of public gatherings; church services are “essential services.”