Published On: Fri, Apr 10th, 2020

Stay Home This Sunday, God can Hear you From There

The marquis at the church on Military Trail in Boynton Beach read “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass. Keep yours home.”

While the language may be somewhat unorthodox coming from a church, perhaps, just maybe, that is the only way to get some people to understand the meaning of “practice social distancing” during this coronavirus pandemic.

For the last three weeks medical experts and our elected leaders have been warning us to avoid public gatherings, and if we have to be out, keep six feet away from others in hopes of keeping us safe and healthy. Still, we are seeing and hearing the stories of those religious leaders who continue to defy these orders. As the world goes darker, we know the light shines brighter and we need God more now than ever. No one is saying stop worship, just simply, do not congregate.  

This weekend, we will observe Easter and Passover. The religious services historically are a magnet for worshippers in many churches and synagogues, and just the thought of an outbreak makes me nervous.

Reverends, pastors, ministers, rabbis and other faith leaders, a key element of your religion is to obey the law and care for others. You can send a clear and powerful message about your faith and values by respecting the social distance order, therefore protecting each other — and the public at large — from sickness or death. 

Several members of the clergy have vowed to hold public services, regardless of the consequences. One congregation in San Diego, California, has asked a federal judge to allow them to meet on Easter Sunday in their vehicles despite the County’s stay at home order.

Parishioners maintain that the order violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment because it places more stringent restrictions on the church than those placed on secular businesses.

Yes, it is a thin line between religion and state. However, when does common sense prevail? Just like holy water is not a hand sanitizer, prayer is not a vaccine.

As many of you know, I am not a fan of government intrusion. However, we are in a unique situation and it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that all people are safe 

Most houses of worships are demonstrating the kind of leadership we need, they are embracing technology despite the frustrating limitations, and are offering their members the opportunity to worship virtually.

As I pen this column, I am watching an internationally-known pastor deliver his message to an empty sanctuary. Guess what, the impact of his message was not altered and him being virtual, allowed the gospel to reach many across the world.

Other pastors have given new meaning to the term, “Necessity is the mother of inventions,” by taking creative measures such as requiring congregants to wear protective gear including hazmat suits when coming to church or offering drive-thru benedictions.

Still, there are some who, hide under the cloak of the First Amendment, arguing that a church should have reasonable accommodations to serve God according to their conscience. Say what?

Their motives are mixed – some, it is greed, some are misguided and others are simply wacked.

One local pastor, after holding services online two Sundays ago, complained that he did not make enough money from the offering. So, instead of bolstering digital tithes and offering from his parishioners, they went back to meeting this past Sunday. 

Another pastor held drive-in services where attendees stayed in their cars and listened as they would at a drive-in movie theatre.

While that is creative and a bit safer, it is still risky.

This is a pandemic and people are fearful and looking to their faith leaders for guidance. If you continue to flounce orders for selfish reasons, where is your sense of responsibility? Is that sound leadership and good judgment? Your parishioners may not succumb to the illness but they could pass the virus along to others. Your selfish actions could literally kill people pastor.

Some have even suggested that people should stay in their lanes, as one Orlando pastor told critics, “Mind your own business.” 

What he and all the other recalcitrant faith leaders fail to realize is that ensuring the health and safety of those among us in this pandemic is the responsibility of everyone.  It is everyone’s business pastor.

I know for many, the house of worship is an oasis of calm and comfort during this period when our world is in chaos. Come on people, let common sense prevail please!

C. Ron Allen can be reached at [email protected] or 561-665-0151.

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