What is your church doing? When are you thinking about trying to do in-person services? When you do, how are you going to do that?
These are the questions that were batted back and forth in multiple meetings I participated in this past week. Everyone is asking the same questions. There seems to be some general consensus around a few “best practices” that churches can take in the days ahead, but much that is still uncertain.
One pastor jokingly said that his congregation was keeping one eye on the CDC website and the other on their magic 8-ball.
I confess: I was really hoping that someone would have some nugget of insight, some word from on high that would lead us all to the Promised Land of safety and security. However, there was no such revelation. Instead, we prayed together and committed to be there for each other, to share ideas, to grieve, and to continue walking together.
At the end of the day, though, here are a few things that I know to be absolutely true: (1) Every single one of the pastors I’ve met with this week loves their church fiercely. (2) No one wants to do anything that will put their flock in danger. No one wants to be the church that gathered together too soon and became ground zero for another outbreak. (3) Our community is filled with men and women of deep faith who are called by God and who take that calling very seriously.
Unfortunately, we live in a polarized world – a world that insists that we take sides and declare our allegiance moment by moment.
For those that will decide to be cautious and follow the CDC guidelines to letter, their decision and conviction will be questioned. They will be accused by some as lacking faith and allowing fear to rule their lives.
For those who are more confident and decide to begin meeting earlier, their decision will be questioned. They will be accused of being reckless and of putting others at risk unnecessarily.
The reality is, as one pastor reminded us, every church is different. We are making decisions based on our unique context. Every facility is different. The makeup of every congregation is different. Every worship style is different.
Maybe the best thing we could do right now is this: show grace. Our church sign boldly claims that we are “a community of grace.” If Griffin and Spalding County would allow me, might I suggest that this become our broader slogan in these days – that we become “a community of grace.”
Doubtless, there will be those in our community that share different convictions from you and I. Instead of judgement, though, let us seek to look with eyes of love. Let us extend grace to one another. Let believe the best about one another. None of us wants people to be sick. None of us wants people to die.
But if we have any chance of healing as a community – not just from this virus, but from the divisions that plagued us long before we ever heard of Covid-19 – it’s going to have to start with the children of God learning to love one another in spite of our differences.