My elderly Mom lives in an independent home and of course, their restrictions for the residents has been rather tight. It meant, among other things, that I couldn’t take her to church every Sunday. In fact, she hadn’t been to church for a year.
Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and macular degeneration, she can’t use a computer to attend services online. She can’t even read the Bible. About the best she could do was to find a Christian music television station and listen to hymns.
However, recently her facility eased up, and now I can take her out and bring her back without them putting her under quarantine. I got online and saw the church I take her to was holding in-person Palm Sunday services. I couldn’t get through to the church office by phone to confirm but made plans to take her anyway.
Mom was thrilled.
When we got there, only a few cars were in the parking lot. I thought I’d misunderstood the service time or sometime.
As it turned out, this was the very first time the church opened their doors for in-person services in months and I think a lot folks were hesitant to show up. Up until that Sunday, the Pastor had been recording sermons on his computer for the parishioners to access. More people started to filter in as the service began, but the crowd that day was still a bit thin.
It was even more exciting that they said masks were optional. So Mom and I “opted.” It was very liberating. That might freak a few of you out, but it felt really nice to have a choice.
They didn’t have the typical “shake your neighbor’s hand,” which was fine with me since, as a life long introvert, I can do without the “meet and greet.” Also, they just put a plate on a stool in front and anyone who wanted to donate could go up at any time during service and do so.
I have a love/hate relationship with Easter for a lot of reasons. All things considered, I’d rather celebrate Passover over Easter. On the other hand, it is the height of the Christian religious calendar, so I don’t support throwing Easter under a bus either. Especially when I know how much going to church means to Mom.
Mom wasn’t the only one looking forward to the Christian holiday season. Churches all over my little corner of Idaho have suffered for not being able to hold in-person services. Last Easter, our state’s governor issued a “stay at home” order right before Easter, so all services were virtual.
This year, all these same churches pulled out the stops in their planning to provide an in-person Easter.
Here’s a quote from that news article:
“I anticipate it will be a pretty emotional day tomorrow,” he [Reverend Duane Anders] said. “I’m a pretty emotional guy myself, I will probably cry through the whole service, just gathering, hearing people sing even with their masks on.”
For Foothills Christian Church in Garden City, however, in-person services never went away.
“I think that in-person services are critically important because it’s who we are as human beings,” Pastor Doug Peake said.
Unfortunately, not all Christians have the same sort of freedom. In the story Police break up Good Friday church service over apparent Covid rule breaches, police in south London broke up a Good Friday service over “apparent breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”
The video shows an officer telling the congregation that they could be fined £200 or arrested for the potential rule-breaking. He said: “This gathering is unfortunately unlawful under the coronavirus regulations we have currently. I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, that though it is Good Friday, and I appreciate you would like to worship, that this gathering is unlawful, so please may you leave the building now. Thank you.”
A statement posted on the church’s website on Saturday said that they complied with the order to close the service and for people to go home, but insisted it had met all government requirements. It claimed the Met officers had misunderstood regulations on church services during the pandemic.
Fortunately, it looks like the church is going to formally complain because they believe they complied with all of the stated regulations.
And things in Ireland seem even more heavy handed.
I realize there’s a certain risk in meeting in person, especially if you’re part of the older population. In Mom’s church, masks were optional and some people wore them while others didn’t. The Pastor wore his when he was near people but took it off to deliver his sermon. On Palm Sunday, only a single singer/guitar player provided music, but today the choir and small band did so. None of them wore masks.
Worshiping together, as Pastor Peake stated, is very human. It’s not a license to be stupid or to ignore either medical evidence or common sense, but at some point, something’s got to give. If that London Catholic church wasn’t able to have a Good Friday service, I certainly hope they still got a face-to-face Easter.
At the end of the day, our relationship with God is personal, just between each of us and Him. But we are commanded to worship together, to support one another, to visit the sick, feed the hungry, support the lonely and grieving. At some point, we have to come together to do that.