In an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many churches across the nation have made the decision to shut down all in-person gatherings and switch to virtual. Many churches have chosen to hold sermons on Facebook Live, which excludes many of the older members of the church through them not being able to access or properly use the internet. As COVID-19 just passed its first birthday on December 31, and many people are wondering when it will be safe to go gather at church again. In my opinion, there is no better time like the present. As people, we have the right underneath the First Amendment to gather together and worship God in communion.
One of the common arguments against going back to church is that there is no safe way to be in a large gathering without a major risk of spreading the coronavirus. What I say against that, is that if there is a way for people to go to school, hang out with friends at restaurants and watch feature-length films, then it is alright for me to worship God at church. The way that our high school has run is living proof that there is a way to be in large gatherings for extended periods of time and still be safe. McIntosh High School has random temperature checked students as they enter the school, implemented a one-way hallway and stairwell system, made sure that people are socially distanced and allowed for people to sit socially distanced at lunch as well. I believe that if churches adopted slightly varied versions of these protocols, COVID-19 would not be as much of an issue.
In some ways, you could see that it is much safer to go to church than to attend school. For starters, church usually never exceeds two hours. School is in session for over double that amount of time. School has shown us that it can be done.
The year 2020 did not only bring us a pandemic, but also a movement. The Black Lives Matter movement has gathered in the thousands and it is seen as okay. Don’t get me wrong, I do sympathize with these individuals but at the same time, I do not believe that COVID-19 knows the difference between a peaceful protest and a gathering at church. According to USA Today, there has even been a ban on singing worship and addition of limiting indoor seating to 25% of the building capacity. On the other hand, the states have not put the same restrictions on protests,
“The state did not place the same restrictions on protests, as if thousands shouting at protests, albeit outdoors, but with minimal social distancing and irregular use of masks would prove less risky,” says USA Today writer Isabella Redjai, “This juxtaposition exposes the double standard by which some First Amendment rights are protected more than others.”
Holy Trinity Catholic Church first reopened during the month of August and they have been holding mass every week since then. Rev. John Murphy said that they reopened in August because, “the governor of Georgia said we could do it and there was a demand.” The church has been following all of the CDC guidelines. That means that all attendees must wear masks in order to come in and physical contact has been kept to a minimum. If the Catholic church is holding in-person church service, so should the Protestant church.
Another reason that people are against going to church is: “Why go to church when I can watch it from the comfort of my home on Facebook Live?” In my opinion, if we go on like this it dives into a deeper question of why would you go to church in-person at all? The church is just a building and it raises the question of the need for it to begin with. For starters, if you didn’t have to congregate in a building it would lessen costs by a large margin and allow for the church to perform more charitable actions. But there is a reason that we go to the building. It isn’t because we need a building in order to worship God, the church is the people that attend. We need a building in order to connect with other people. True worship involves meeting together and building each other up, which is something that can be hard to do over a Facebook Live. Whether or not it is safe to attend church should be a personal choice that goes over the risks and benefits of each individual.
Some people in the church and outside the church argue that it is not loving or Christlike to attend church.
“We don’t honor the gift of life by risking it by going out during a pandemic. We aren’t loving our neighbors if our actions cause them to be infected with a deadly virus. We can’t share the good news of the gospel with folks if they are dead from COVID-19,” says Kate Murphy from the Charlotte Observer, “You don’t risk death to celebrate life.”
Her main argument comes from the Bible teachings that tell Christains to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) and the teachings of Jesus where he says the second greatest commandment is to, again, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). I agree with these verses all the way through. However, to people who make this argument, not going to church is them showing love and compassion and going to church in-person is “blasphemous.” However, there are many instances throughout Jesus’ life where we can see him spending time with the sick. Leprosy was a terrible disease that was going around during Jesus’ time and it could destroy someone’s life. People are very afraid of getting sick with leprosy back in the day, much like people are scared of COVID in the present day. Jesus went to the places that people were scared to go and flipped the script in major ways. We should not be afraid “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7). While I don’t think that we should just go around without a care in the world (Matthew 4:7), we also shouldn’t be afraid of what the future holds (Philippians 1:6).