Over the past several months, nearly everyone in the nation has altered their routine in some way to account for the presence of Covid-19 and various CDC guidelines. Churches have certainly not been exempt from this disruption. Some churches have closed their sanctuaries and opted for virtual services only. Some churches initially closed their sanctuaries and then reopened them with social distancing protocols, strict limitations on attendance, and other safety measures. Some churches, such as our church here on Daufuskie, have shifted to drive-in worship services where people sit in the safety of their own vehicles while the pastor preaches from under a porch roof or some other form of shelter. Within the parameters of state and local legislation, church leaders have to make decisions about what will be the best way for their local churches to meet.
For our church, Christ-centered fellowship has been a critical part of our identity. Gathering together to worship, and being able to share that experience with other members of the local body of Christ, has provided us with a regular reminder to love our neighbors and reassured us that we are not alone in our struggles. Gathering outdoors has provided us with the best option for bringing the greatest number of people together in a safe manner. For the most part, the weather has cooperated with us, so that we have only had one Sunday when it rained during the worship service. But what happens when it starts to get cold?
There are some people for whom cold weather will serve simply as an excuse to not attend an outdoor service. Those are the same people who would sit in a stadium for three hours in freezing weather to watch their favorite football team, but an hour at church seems like too much to ask. But there are others who truly love the Lord and love coming to church, but their physical condition makes it difficult to sit outside when the weather gets chilly. For them, the cold is not an excuse, but rather a hurdle that may or may not be able to be overcome. In those instances, how do we, as the church, respond? If only it was as simple as turning the heat on in the sanctuary and holding services inside on the colder mornings.
Decisions that once seemed easy and situations that once were crystal clear aren’t so simple in this current environment. The question that a Christian should ask is “what does love require of me”, but what if the answer for one (turning on the heat and going inside) is unloving for others (who are still uncomfortable worshipping inside a building)? How then does the church respond?
I don’t know the right answer, just as I suspect that most people now also don’t know the right answer. Really, all we can do is be guided by our beliefs, and make the best decisions that we can, being mindful that we need to be willing to go the extra mile with an enormous dose of love, grace and forgiveness ready to be dispensed at a moment’s notice. So, if you find yourself on the short end of a hard decision, I pray that you will handle it with kindness. And if you are the one making the hard decision, I pray that love will guide you in the process. This is a difficult time, one that is best navigated with mutual love and respect for all.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron