I write this post to get some quick thoughts out. Remember, they are quick and lack nuance but I think they are helpful for my church, and I believe after speaking with many other pastors they reflect many of their thoughts as well.
- The church is not where I expected to be at this moment. I hoped and believed we would be able to re-open our doors to many of our congregants by mid-summer because Covid cases would be going down. Instead, caseloads are increasing and people are divided about what to do. The bottom line is this: Almost every pastor I have spoken to who has reopened their doors is watching attendance and engagement drop when they expected to see people come back to church before a possible second wave in the Fall. Which leads to my second thought.
- I am frustrated, like many of you. It’s hard to change and reorder your life. My routine and normal rhythms are way out of whack. I can’t see some people I’d like to see or as often as I’d like to see them. I am worried about people getting disconnected and depressed. Further, I know others are frustrated because they haven’t seen family members, have lost a job, are losing their business or believe they are being treated as lepers.
- I am worried about those who are lonely. Our country and communities were already battling a loneliness epidemic. Covid-19 is making it worse and churches like ours are trying to find ways to fight against it without causing physical harm, being too pushy or being reckless.
- I am not afraid but I am concerned. I personally am not afraid for my children or self. I do not fall in a “high-risk” group, and from what I can tell there are more dangerous threats to my children than Covid-19. However, I recognize the virus could harm me and the long-term effects aren’t fully understood right now. I am concerned for those who are “high-risk,” and I don’t want to be the one to pass the virus to someone more susceptible. I am also concerned by the division in the church, families and politics, which is perpetuated by controversy in how to handle the pandemic.
- I do not like wearing a mask but I don’t think it’s tyrannical to mandate its use in public during a pandemic for a limited time. I need to say a few things to those who believe the mandate is tyrannical. Let me begin where we have common ground. I agree a government can pass laws for our “safety” as a cover for current or future tyrannical actions. Personally, I don’t see being asked to wear a mask during caseload spikes in public indoor spaces as tyrannical, especially if we are still able to go to work and attend church. I am not asking for you to agree with me—I am simply letting you know why I am not protesting the mandate right now in our church.
- I think it’s a bad idea to protest your church. If you believe masks are tyrannical for any number of reasons, find a way to let your displeasure be known to the governor or federal government. On the other hand, if you’re able to wear a mask and you are willing to worship and be with your church family on Sunday mornings, I encourage you to do so—even if you would prefer your leadership ignore the mandate. Trying to maintain unity in the church and a reasonable approach to fellowship while the world is so divided is needed today as much as ever. In the words of Paul, For you, brothers and sisters, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
- I am attempting to do my best to not be consumed by church attendance or lack thereof. I am trying to practice patience. I recognize everyone has different challenges at the moment. I know our situation is temporary. In the past, one indicator of our church’s success is how many people attend on Sunday morning or in our Growth Groups. I am not sure this is still a reliable indicator of the health of our church. The ambiguity of when we will get back to “normal” is a challenge.
- “The virus of sin is worse than Covid.” This is a quote from a lady in our church who suffered greatly from the virus for roughly five weeks with high fevers, muscle aches, headaches and more. She told our Elders on a Zoom call, “The virus of sin is worse than Covid,” after we invited her on for prayer during week 4 of her infection. Covid is serious, but so is sin. We all need to remember that Covid is a result of sin entering the world. Sin will have us take out our frustrations on our family members, friends, co-workers and church family. Sin is a bigger destroyer of the things we love than Covid-19 ever will be. Therefore, we all must be careful during these times to not let sin get the best of us while we try to avoid Covid-19 or even ignore it all together.