In light of recent protests and rallies from some pastors and politicians in North Carolina calling for reopening our places of worship, the North Carolina Council of Churches states unequivocally that we do not believe now is the time for congregations to return to their sanctuaries.
This is not a political issue. It is a theological issue. Right now, we love our neighbors best by keeping our distance from them. The ability of people of faith to praise God and nurture their faith is not limited to sitting together in a sanctuary. To claim this “right” is only to betray the political motivations behind the rally.
When asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus spend a lengthy period of time in one place, they will infect those around them. This is how worship works. We stay near each other for an hour or more. If the asymptomatic person goes around hugging people, the setting is even more dangerous because time exposure is compounded by close proximity.
Many reputable scientists from leading research institutions have written and spoken about how this virus spreads. It spreads when time and proximity line up. Breathing the same air as a carrier for a lengthy period, like a worship service, is dangerous. Breathing the same air as a carrier for the time it takes to walk past this person in a retail establishment is not as dangerous. It’s basic math: time + proximity = contagion.
The below statement is from The Rev Sara Wilcox, Land in the Sky, United Church of Christ in Asheville, NC
If loving our neighbors is demonstrative of how we love God, then we acknowledge the human frailties before us and take care of human life all around us. We have a responsibility to lead with wisdom and the deep awareness that God creates science and sends information to protect us. God’s hands and feet and heart at work in the world are experienced through the loving actions of our discipleship. If God can transcend the thin veil of heaven and earth, then God isn’t stopped by our masks and doesn’t even need us in the same room to be at work. The insistence to ignore science and bring together large gatherings in churches will have deadly consequences. We serve a God who asks us to Choose Life. To use our faith to demand freedom to take life and endanger others is not in line with following in the ways of Jesus. It’s steeped in an individualism that is found in a toxic interpretation of the Christian faith that colluded with the empire and currently blindly follows 45 who in deed and spirit shows he is not a follower of the Way.
Is it right to gather when our elders and immunocompromised cannot be among us? Can we create hybrid models? How will this change church and what we commit to do and be together?
These are questions that we should be exploring faithfully. The suggestion that we go back to life as usual is for people who lack imagination and think God can’t meet us where we are…
Grateful to worship a God much bigger. The Holy One is always doing a new thing…