Faith

Houses of Worship Labeled ‘Essential Places.’ But Are They Really?

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Last week, just before Memorial Day holiday weekend, President Donald Trump called churches, synagogues and mosques essential places of worship.

One week ago, President Donald Trump called on state governors to allow churches and other “essential places of worship” to reopen. He also threatened to override any governors who did not do so.

“Governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend,” the president said.

In many areas, churches were still being advised to remain closed for in-person services. They have been conducting online services for anyone wishing to attend a virtual service.

Two churches that reopened after initial orders to close suddenly closed a second time. The Washington Post reported that a church in Georgia and another in Texas closed again after reported COVID-19 outbreaks. The decisions to close came after leaders and members tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after the churches reopened.

In California, a Sacramento County health official blamed a church service for the infection of at least 70 people. The church denies that, but health officials continue to urge against congregating in groups.

Are churches really ‘essential places?’

Before I answer that, allow me to point out that I’m a Christian. I really don’t remember a time that I didn’t believe in God. A fear of water delayed my baptism until I was 13. Even so, that means I’ve been a Christian for a long time.

I do believe faith is essential. I believe having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is critically important. (If you are a member of a different faith or none at all, I’m not here to convert you.)

But I do not believe, however, that a church service is essential. I don’t think you lose your salvation if your church doesn’t meet for a couple of months. It seems to me that churches that decide not to meet for safety reasons are doing a good job of looking out for their parishioners.

Praying does not require an audience. Anyone can pray at any time.

Anyone can tune in to a church service on television or online at any time, not just Sunday.

Fellowship certainly can be important, but how much fellowship do you get in church? In my case, most of the time, the only fellowship I experience is when the worship pastor encourages people to speak to one another before they sit down after the second song.

That, friends, is not fellowship. It’s forced interaction. And because of the pandemic, the close proximity and handshaking remains forbidden anyway.

If your faith depends on meeting in a group, I would question the basis of it. Church, pastors constantly remind us, isn’t about the building but the relationship. And much of that relationship has to be focused between the individual members and God, not each other.

You shouldn’t have to meet in a church building to foster that. One-on-one prayer between you and God and reading the Bible should be your priorities until it’s safe to meet in groups again.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.