What Should I Do With Those Who Are Unable or Unwilling to Attend Church When We Start Gathering?

"The reasons someone might not want to attend church gatherings vary greatly and our pastoral response will be directed to such reasons. ...For example, there are big differences between the one who is fearful to return, the one who is immuno-compromised, and the one who simply wants to stay home and watch a live-stream because it’s more convenient." - 9 Marks

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Good thoughts here, but as usual with "pastoral perspective on reopenning" posts, it omits the possibility that someone may have a difference of opinion about whether it's wise/responsible/good community relations to reopen at this point in time. ...and the possibility that they may be right.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

Nah, too obvious an answer.  :^)

Seriously, to build on what Aaron says, you keep abreast of the data, imperfect though it is, and you encourage people to meet again in the sheep-fold.  And you brace yourself for the possibility that due to their medical history of just plain fears, they're not going to be persuaded very soon.  But you love them anyways.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bert wrote:

And you brace yourself for the possibility that due to their medical history of just plain fears, they're not going to be persuaded very soon.  But you love them anyways.

Agreed. I have about three individuals who may fit that category.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I sense the article is about the long-term, not the short term. Sure there will be differences of opinion in the short-term, and they may be right or wrong. We will never know because we don't live in a world of counter factuals. It is, in the end, a wisdom decision.

But won't there come a day when people who are afraid need to be challenged on their fear and what their fear is doing to them and their life as a Christian? Since Gen 3, there has been sickness and death in the world and we can't change that. Part of discipleship is equipping people to live in the fear of God, not the fear of life.

JD Miller's picture

As of today there have been just under 336,000 deaths due to Covid-19 worldwide.  In 2015 we had 156,000 deaths per day from all causes.  Thus so far we have had the equivalent of 2.1 days worth of deaths due to Covid 19.  So if the normal amount of deaths in the world doubled for 52 hours, that would account for all the COVID 19 deaths so far.  This is not insignificant, but some are acting as if we have 100 times the normal amount of deaths every day.  That is not the reality.  We need to be careful and protect the vulnerable and also give grace to those who are not as comfortable meeting, but we are not being responsible when we spread unnecessary  fear.

Jim's picture

My point of view:

  • I'm almost 71. I have cancer. I may not attend immediately
  • I want to see a COVID opening plan from our church. So far nothing. Deacons seem to think that's it's going to be like "flipping a switch" and we resume as normal

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Is there no discussion of how to change seating arrangements, at least?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jim,

I'm a deacon at my church, and we have been working hard at trying to figure out some sort of "plan" that will actually stand up to the test of reality.  In my state, there is one statewide plan, and our county has a plan that disagrees with the state plan in a number of areas.  Interestingly, because of the state constitution, in some cases the statewide plan has the preeminence, and in other cases, the county is overriding them.  And, it's changing sometimes weekly.

We don't expect a switch to just "get flipped," but our announcements to the congregation have been tentative, also letting everyone know that what we plan may or may not happen, due to the fact that we not only have the different governmental authorities, but also injunctions that disallow some of the restrictions, but also expire in 7-14 days.  We have attempted to get letters from the government that specifically tell us what we are allowed to do, but we have received some that are vague, and in other cases, our requests have been ignored, except for a response that our communication was received.

I don't know about your church, but ours is just going to continue putting out updates on our website, Facebook, and email, and to some extent, we will have to fly by the seat of our pants.  Not by choice, but of necessity while trying to manage all this properly within the bounds of conflicting laws and policies.  We are choosing to overcommunicate, and we hope the congregation will understand the limitations of our plans.  Almost all of the feedback has been good.

Dave Barnhart

JD Miller's picture

What we are allowed to do?  

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There is a lot of room to ask what we as Christians "should" do, but there should be no doubt about what we are allowed to do.  Both the justice department and the president have been cracking down on states that have violated these basic rights.  We are allowed to meet and worship.  In Minnesota the Catholics and Lutherans wrote a letter to the governor making it clear that they recognize their rights to meet, yet I see so many Baptists willing to give up those rights.  What has happened?

Mark_Smith's picture

JD Miller wrote:

What we are allowed to do?  

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There is a lot of room to ask what we as Christians "should" do, but there should be no doubt about what we are allowed to do.  Both the justice department and the president have been cracking down on states that have violated these basic rights.  We are allowed to meet and worship.  In Minnesota the Catholics and Lutherans wrote a letter to the governor making it clear that they recognize their rights to meet, yet I see so many Baptists willing to give up those rights.  What has happened?

But no right is "absolute" as you know. It is reasonable for a government to quarantine during a plague. What is not reasonable is inequity. Say restaurants can open at 1/3 capacity while you still shut down churches.

JD Miller's picture

We re-spaced our rows of chairs so that they are twice as far apart as before.  Further we limited each row of chairs to 7 since that is how big our largest family is.  We also made a wider center isle.  If we had pews, we could have easily blocked off every other row.  Of course we are fortunate that we have a large enough meeting area to do this, but most churches have plans for accommodating funeral overflows that could be adapted for social distancing purposes.  It is a least something they could talk about.

We also moved the rows of chairs against the wall.  Since we have wider aisles between the chairs we do not need an outlet on each side of each row.  This gave us some more room.  I also sent a letter out before opening saying not to approach anyone who was sitting against the wall but to allow them to approach you.  That allowed those who wanted to social distance even further a measure of security.

JD Miller's picture

Here is an article that deals with the issue of the 1st Amendment and the limits upon it.  I think this quote is especially relevant to some of our rural areas that have few or no cases of COVID 19, but are still not allowed to open church.  

But even in such cases, government has to prove a “clear and compelling danger,” not just a scientific theory or concern that someone or something might be a threat — a legal standard which might come to rely heavily on testing for COVID-19 exposure and infection once those interventions become widespread.

The full article is here:  https://www.freedomforum.org/2020/04/21/our-first-amendment-rights-must-survive-covid-19/

One of my greatest concerns are the governors who are treating churches different than other gatherings.  Here is an article from the Washington Post on what is happening in MN with the Catholics and Lutherans:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/05/21/minnesota-catholic-lutheran-defy-walz-reopen-coronavirus/

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the law, I think it's really at the point of "your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins."  We have religious freedom, but if a new group of Aztecs wanted to revive the ritual slaughter and cannibalism of neighboring churches/tribes., the law would rightly intervene.  In the same way, we've got a right to meet as long as our meetings aren't strongly likely to get dozens or hundreds of people infected, sick, and killed.  Worship all you want, just try not to get the rest of us killed, OK?

In MN, Gov. Walz has nonsensically argued that the attendance at churches is less predictable than that at other places, which quite frankly denies the reality that at most of the churches I've attended, I know not only who is likely to be there, but also where they tend to sit.  Sure, bars have regulars, too, but...one has to wonder whether Walz has been a regular at any church at any point in his life.  Even Easter/Christmas churchgoers pick up on who is there, I dare say.

So the deacon board at my church is eagerly waiting for a state or federal court to slap Walz into next week, legally speaking, and trying to do the best we can to serve our members while keeping people safe.  Since surfaces aren't "strongly likely" ways of transmission anymore, what we've really got is our hallways, doorways, and bathrooms as chief places for transmission.  That's somewhat scary, really, especially since so many of our members are older.

At the very least, each church ought to try to do better than governors in NY, NJ, PA, and MN have done; allowing (even requiring) COVID-19 patients to enter nursing homes without being cleared of active infection.  Really, those governors and their state health boards ought to go to jail for that, as thousands are probably dead as a result.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.