One of the most affected sectors, by the COVID-19 pandemic, is religious institutions and faith-based organizations.
Recently, governments of some nations have permitted churches to hold services under certain proposed guidelines and restrictions. However, many questions have been asked with regard to safety and the essentiality of religious gatherings.
The question of essentiality
In troubling times such as this, people need to listen to messages of hope, faith, and the love of God. For Christians, the church is much more than just a social club or an optional meeting.
A Christian’s fellowship with other believers is central to his/her spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being. These are times where believers need to come together to pray for their communities and nations.
The “God-factor” cannot be relegated to the background in a time where it is needed the most. The face of God needs to be sought and that is the responsibility of the entire church.
The church is an essential service for Christians due to the element of hope it provides. So why not hold church services online as an effective alternative to physical meetings? After all, the messages preached wouldn’t lose their potency just because congregants aren’t physically present would they?
While we do not think that there is much difference between listening to a sermon online and listening to it in person, the issue of affordability is paramount here. It is common knowledge that global economic failure is a repercussion of the ongoing fight against the pandemic. Many individuals have lost their jobs because they can no longer be paid by the companies for which they work. Christians; especially those in less endowed countries would struggle to stream online church services due to a deficiency in financial strength.
Some people can afford streaming online services but what happens to those who cannot? The opening of churches would be advantageous to those who may be less privileged financially and wouldn’t afford patronizing online church services. Such people would lose their weekly ‘dose’ of hope if churches are not opened in a way that would make attendance safe.
The question of safety
Many people’s concern now would be whether the church services would be safe enough to attend. The issue of safety is of course a valid concern and the appropriate measures ought to be taken by churches when they open in order to ensure that outbreaks do not occur. In as much as it is normal for individuals to be concerned about safety, a certain level of consistency needs to be present in our line of reasoning.
There are a lot of examples of public gatherings regarded as essential which have a similar risk factor to that of church gatherings. What makes the difference for these gatherings is the observance of precautions and protocols to which the church can also adhere to. Parliamentary sittings, media press briefings, vetting of prospective vetting officials, the operation of cinemas, etc.
Are also social gatherings in an enclosed space just like most churches. Aside from the operation of cinema’s all the stated examples also involve a chairperson addressing a crowd just like the Pastor addresses his/her congregation. If some secular gatherings with some similarities to the church are allowed to operate provided the needed protocols are observed, the church can also do the same.
Should you fear?
NO! Every individual is required to be cautious and take the necessary precautions but fear should not be our disposition. Should churches start opening their doors to members, we are all responsible for being one another’s keeper. All individuals must ensure that everyone else involved in church activities stick to the rules and guidelines the government has proposed for church services.
Ensure that the church has sanitizers at vantage points, masks are worn, the one-meter rule for social distancing is observed by leaders and members of the church.
These are not normal times but we need normalcy to be restored in the shortest possible time. We can do this together by ensuring that we stick to the protocols as individuals and ensuring that others do so too. If we’re all disciplined enough we can fight COVID-19 together and come out victorious. It isn’t about whether social gatherings are allowed or not. It is more about our will to do our part as individuals.