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Monday, May 11, 2020

Oh, When the Saints Go … Staying Home

Those of us in the pew-filling business look for any creative way to bring the spiritually hungry to our houses of worship. Our purposes are many. People bond when they are meeting others of like minds. Sanctuaries filled with songs of worship are powerful. It is said that God “inhabits our praise.” Psalm 22:3 (KJV)

Most places of fellowship offer so much to many. There are people seeking ways to recover from life’s burdensome temptations. Young people may find an accepting group of peers and a place of safety to discuss their weak zones. Seniors find companionship in a stage of life that can leave them feeling abandoned.

It is the place where couples make promises of commitment before God and witnesses. A place where souls are washed in a basin of baptism that confirms their commitment to follow Jesus. It might well be the place where the final words are spoken by family members, friends, and a preacher to a honor a soul recently departed. Even then, the church can be home to sweet reunions and words of hope.

Oh yes. Church can be a most wonderful place to gather. But not now.

It is unfortunate—at least in my view—that some ministry leaders feel risky gatherings are worth any price. Even to the point of death. COVID-19 has proved its potent message: don’t mess with a deadly virus.

Just a few days ago, a usually reliable and responsible group named the Liberty Counsel called on churches nationwide to open and meetings to resume on Sunday, May 3. They named this occasion ReOpen Church Sunday. The date was selected to kick off the annual National Day of Prayer week. That day was celebrated last Thursday, May 7th. 

Admittedly, the organizers were asking congregations participating in ReOpen Church Sunday to mind their spiritual manners. That would include appropriate sanitization and respectable social distancing between families. Grace was also given for the particularly nervous nellies among us who would push for reduced seating inside the sanctuary.

Even more grace was extended for the weaker of faith (in jest, my friend) by suggesting parking lot services for those choosing not to go inside the building. Last, but not least, online services were suggested “for those who are unable to attend or who are in a higher risk category due to age or predisposed health conditions.”

The Liberty Counsel initiative flew in the face of our Illinois Governor who has put the kibosh on any church gatherings more than 10 attendees. So much for those who plead for their First Amendment rights. So not every pastor was willing to go along.

Out came the legal weapons. Most Beloved Church is located in the northwest Illinois village of Lena. Their pastor decided to sue, hoping to block the portion of the Gov’s stay-at-home order that bans public worship services. His church planned to go right on a-meetin’ come hell or, well, the state troopers.

He got his wish. Sort of. J.B. (as in Pritzger) loosened up a tad and said a group of ten congregants was okay. But only if they didn’t sing, “Kumbaya.” <grin>

As for my place of worship? No Sunday-go-to-meetin in our congregation. We have a fair share of at-risk seniors and a whole lot of common sense folk who figure our streaming worship services can pass out blessings with the best of them. And we present a whole lot more Gospel than a not-to-be-mentioned Houston motivational speaker (I hesitate to call him a pastor).

It’s my pleasure each week to record the Sunday announcements…on Saturday. They take my temperature as I walk in the door. They wipe down every surface I might touch with some bleachy stuff. Each week, I ask our Facebook Watch Party parishioners to wave at each other. Socially distant, of course.

Jesus Himself said, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 (NLT) And right now, Facebook Watch parties seem like a very safe gathering place.

I hope the day comes soon when our church doors are wide open and the saints can march right on in.

But until this virus gives up, I think the saints are fully capable of worshiping at home.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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