One of the things a minister never wants to do is close the church. It’s a tough call on a snow day, let alone for a global pandemic. In an era where churches seem to be losing steam and small congregations are struggling to keep the door open, there is a very real fear that if one locks the doors to their local church they may never open again. I feel this every time I need to wrestle with the question of calling off service, and I know my congregants do, too.
Ultimately, the question I end up asking myself every time I have to make this decision is not why should I close things down, but why am I keeping things open? Am I doing it for myself, or am I doing it for others? I know there is something comforting in having a community to go to at the end of each week. I know there is a power in being able to recharge one's faith and hope for tomorrow in a familiar and safe space. These are reasons I go to church too, aside from it being my job . . . But sometimes our safe spaces become unsafe spaces, and I know that, if I want to be a moral and faithful person, I should be willing to temporarily give up even going to church when the wellbeing of others is at risk.
With the arrival of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) into our community, we have all had to come to the realization that many of our safe spaces are not safe anymore, those places we go to recharge, cool down, and get ourselves ready for life again have become a risk to our lives and the people in our communities. This is chilling, and as a result I feel that this period of social distancing does not feel like a snow day at all. It feels like we are waiting to be hit by a hurricane. It is in times like this that I turn to a letter in the bible I do not often read, 1 Peter 3: 8- 10, 13-15: “ Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.”
In this time, I feel we are called to a unity of spirit. We are called to be reminded that even though we may be home alone, we are not, in fact, alone. We are all trying to beat this virus together, and by closing churches and schools and restaurants and movie theaters and practicing social distancing, we are, in fact, standing with each other in solidarity, so that all of us can remain healthy and whole.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, do not buy up resources that first responders and the ill will need to confront this virus. Remember that we are all in this together, not just as a local community, but for once, as a global human community. We are all trying to beat this virus!
The way we deal with this virus is a moral issue, and as good moral people, I am sure we can endure this tough time together.
Peace be with you all.