Amidst several churches defying health orders and conducting services, and terrifying images of a burned church in Mississippi, I write to my fellow Believers and ask the question; Should reopening services be a priority for our Church?
While I believe you have the right to reopen, and agree with the governor’s decision to allow reopening with 25% capacity, I think this debate misses the whole point of our faith
Do we not sing that they shall know who we are by our love? There is a need within our congregations, and I know those Zoom meet-ups just don’t feel the same, but in this time there is even more need outside our congregations.
Poverty and food insecurity are deepening as there are at least four times as many people out of work in Santa Barbara County as a year ago. Mental health issues are on the rise, threatening to deprive our community of more lives than the disease. The congregate but hard living of homelessness threatens them and, if we do nothing to help, the society at large with secondary outbreaks.
In this time I know many people of multiple faiths that are stepping up and engaging in works of good as individuals, but why should we not take this moment and do that as congregations? I would argue that our faith is one that defined itself during the plagues of the third century as one of compassion and community action.
If we are willing, like those Believers, to take a risk for our belief, is it not more powerful to do that in a homeless shelter, in a (socially distanced) coffee with an isolated friend, at the food bank and at the hundred other places we are needed? Sermons did not become integral until more than 1,000 years of the Church, but service was part of the ministry from day 1.
And if we are reopening, we must do so with real precautions, like instructions to leave multiple seats between family groups. We should be remembered for our love, not our recklessness. As for me, I will take my family to a worship service that is outside, given the reduced risk of infection in that setting.
Das Williams is a member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. He represents the 1st District.