As Covid continues to drag on, so do the limits and constraints that have been placed on places of worship. In California, churches have been required to close down mass indoor gatherings and move their services either online or outdoor in alignment with physical distancing and mask wearing guidelines. In the midst of a nationwide conversation where churches are working together with local governments, some churches and worship leaders have attempted to steer the Coronavirus conversation their way. While I certainly have an opinion on what I think about these churches and worship leaders, that is not my aim for this post; it’s to present a different viewpoint.
We’ve gotten worship totally wrong.
Along the way we have twisted the call to meet together and the lifting of prayers as a united assembly with the produced and manufactured stage time of a polished preacher and ever-present worship leader. We have elevated the show while sacrificing the scripture, forgetting that the heart of worship is to first love God, and then your neighbor. Somehow wearing a mask is considered an affront to our call to worship. I’ve heard it put this way by a close friend who pastors a church no more than ten miles away from me, “Russ. The state has taken away our right to worship. They’ve told us we cannot meet. They said we have to follow their guidelines or we will be shut down.” The thing is, none of that is true. Churches in California can meet, if they adjust their activity of worship.
Maybe we need to change our attitude of worship, as well as our activity.
Churches can gather outside, they can sing along with their worship, they can sit and listen to a pastor preach, they can see those in their fellowship, but they have to do it differently. They need to spread out no closer than six feet apart, sit only within their family groups, cover their faces while singing, and avoid all physical contact. One of the oft mentioned complaints is the conflation of singing with a mask on and worship. But here’s the thing: singing casts out the viral load further than speaking, so this thing you see as a needed act of worship is in reality the thing that could kill your neighbor and put you at odds with your God.
Did you really just say that?
I totally did. Your church is not under any sort of persecution because of the restrictions our state and local government has placed on us because of Covid-19. No one is attacking you, your life is not being threatened, and your church is not being shut down. You have to wear a mask, create physical space between you and your neighbors, and bring the service outside. Yes, things will look and feel different. You may not like it and the people who used to call your church home may never come back. None of this is fun. This is not our dream scenario. But in a weird way, the church has an opportunity to be a different kind of city on a hill.
The light may look different and the hill may be a steeper climb, but it will be much better for you to have considered the cost to you and your community, and err on the right side of history, the one where you value the lives of your neighbors.