Just so you know, I am not a health expert, and I can’t give you an official recommendation on what you choose to do during a pandemic. But, I will offer an opinion or two…
Everyone wants things to go back to normal. Even if normal was broken. But we all tend to get nostalgic during a crisis, so it is easy to romanticize the worst times if they resemble comfort. I consider it the ‘wet bed syndrome’. A child suddenly realizes one day that it is not good to wet the bed, and they may even try to move around the wet bed to avoid discomfort. But at some point they hit the point where they have to get out of the bed, go tell mom, do something to change the situation.
The change is uncomfortable, but it takes the moment where we realize the wet bed was not comfortable, it was just familiar.
So what does this have to do with opening the doors to the public? Quite simply, we want to find whatever comfort we held onto before we were not allowed to go anywhere. I speak mostly to churches, but I think it applies to numerous situations. Your local coffee shop, favourite mall, ice cream parlour, etc. Not necessarily to buy anything, but just to hang out in a memorable spot with familiar people and sites.
Churches are an odd bird in the mix. We are called to gather in faith, much of our worship and action is dependent on physical proximity, and we hold each person as being made in the image of God. So why wouldn’t we want to see each other in person? Churches are synonymous with people getting up close and personal, even in bigger colder gathering spaces. Shaking hands, hugging, talking over a coffee,…you get the drill, it all happens. And, of course, there is the big one everyone is talking about right now:
It produces more water droplets, covering more territory, and staying in the air longer, than just talking. And it is something all churches participate in.
I took a look at my church foyer this past week and realized it is next to impossible to keep people from interacting at some level. Believe it or not, these gathering spaces were designed with this purpose in mind. To move people from one spot to another, and to make sure they have a chance to get to know each other along the way. Great for the purpose of community building; not so great for reducing the spread of a scary virus.
And it is not just the one gathering time. Most of us have a variety of groups that meet at different times for different purposes. Age, interest, need, each interacting from different places to this common place. These are things I do not want to forsake, because gathering is special, and it makes me more whole as a person.
But I also love my neighbour. And I love my brother and sister. It is part of loving God.
So when should we open? Well, the church as a universal idea has been around for about 2000 years, lasted through wars, famine, persecution, violence, apathy, stupidity, and hate. Gathering has not always been convenient or safe, and we find ways to share God’s love faithfulness. In fact, many of these things have happened in large parts of the world, and continue to happen, and yet the church survives.
For my small church, it is a matter of what is best for those involved and the impact they carry to those in their varying circles. It is not a building, or a place. It is a group of people loving on each other and sharing that love however they can in their neighbourhoods. Not perfect, just with a purpose.
And that occasionally means without doors opening, from behind a mask, over a Zoom chat, and with copious amounts of hand sanitizer.
Be blessed, and stay safe!