What a difference three days can make.
Tuesday I wrote my random thoughts for the week and, based on some assurances from a medical professional, I said “I’m still going to Spring Training.” Wednesday night news dropped that the NBA was suspending their season, and at that moment I was resigned that my trip would be cancelled. Yesterday the NHL, MLS, and MLB all shut down operations. Now, even if it was “safe” for me to go, there was nothing to go to.
Beyond that, however, are my responsibilities as a pastor. If the present goal for our country needs to be mitigation then I need to do something to exemplify what that looks like. We need to do everything we can to keep critical cases of CoVid-19 below the number of people for which our medical system can care. Cancelling a trip seems like it’s the very least I can do to move the needle in that direction.
Our society is about to change, and this struck me as I took a trip to CVS to pick up some prescriptions. Less than an hour before I hopped in my car the NCAA had cancelled March Madness, but when I turned on the radio a commercial was playing a pre-recorded promo for a March Madness viewing party at a huge sports bar. Schools are closing, colleges and universities are finishing their semesters online, and my home county in PA is moving toward complete lock-down in an effort to aid mitigation efforts. Life is beginning to feel a bit surreal, and the toilet paper shortage is not helping.
Sunday Morning Central Baptist will gather together to worship, and I’m expecting a number of people to remain at home. This will make our gathering feel a bit odd, but for folks who are most at risk in this situation it is a reasonable and welcome precaution.
For those who do attend, they’ll be greeted with gloved ushers 1 and greeters who will welcome everyone with a squirt of hand sanitizer. People will be encouraged to sit at least 6 feet apart from one another, and nothing will be passed between members of the congregation. Last week we introduced a non-contact Passing the Peace, in which congregants were encouraged to use their own method to convey the peace of God toward, and connection with, their neighbors 2. After worship fellowship is also being suspended for the foreseeable future.
For those who feel they must remain at home, Central has invested in a Mevo streaming camera to improve our live stream. This was part of the plan already, but now it’s an important way to help people feel a bit more “present” as they watch from home 3.
I’m sure there are folks who are going to wonder why we’re worshipping at all, given the nature of this disease. It’s not a bad question, and there may come a time when the benefits of gathering our small community together don’t outweigh the risks of doing so. At present, however, our size works in our favor. Mitigation strategies are not diffiuclt to implement, and we have the space for people to spread out. Gathering in worship gives people a place to pour out their love, fears, hopes, and troubles before our Savior–and to be reminded of our calling to live as a people of hope. It’s important that we are deliberate about this now 4, because there may come a time when it becomes necessary to cancel public worship and we’ll need that hope to buoy us. And, maybe, we can be good examples for others 5.
Three days is all it took to make our society realize that “normal” wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Christians also believe three days is what it took to mark a brand new story of life for humanity–when Jesus rose from the grave. May all who live in love and hope be agents of that life.
- The gloves are mostly for the usher’s protection. ↩
- I did the Vulcan hand salute. In case you were wondering. ↩
- I’m not pleased with the audio at present, we’re going to take steps to improve it. ↩
- And, really, always. But in a time of crisis it’s good to be more deliberate in our preparations. ↩
- Which Christians have tended to not be in our culture for a good while. ↩