The COVID-19 Pandemic continuous to have a tremendous impact worldwide. It may forever change how we interact with one another. While federal and state officials announce the reopening of various businesses, spiritual leaders are formalizing plans to ensure the safety of their parishioners. For most Believers, fellowshipping and worshipping in a church sanctuary is vital. While some spiritual leaders have long embraced spread the Gospel through social media and live platforms, others did not. Regardless of their apprehensions, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused spiritual leadership to re-evaluate their positions regarding online ministry.
On May 22, 2020, President Trump declared “places of worship” essential then order each governor of every state to reopen them immediately. This announcement caused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to release interim guidelines for communities of faith. While it is clear that CDC is not attempting to infringe upon our First Amendment rights, their recommendations will dramatically impact how we engage in worship. The recommendations include the following:
- Upholding social distancing
- Promoting healthy hygiene practices
- Cloth face coverings
- An increased routine of intensified cleaning and disinfecting of places of worship and their ventilation systems
- Minimize the use of shared Worship Materials
- Additional guidelines for Nurseries in places of worship
All of these recommendations (with the exception of promoting healthy hygiene habits) are contrary to how parishioners interact with one another in church settings. Spiritual leaders now have the task of identifying how to navigate worship services while adhering to CDC recommendations to ensure everyone’s safety. Let us consider some of the worship practices that may need to be modified.
- Holy Communion: For those churches who do not purchase prepackaged communion wafers and juice, this may become a requirement. Instead of using cloth gloves, the disposable glove may be considered more hygienic.
- Discontinued Use of Community Bibles and Hymnals: CDC discourages the use of shared Worship Materials. Churches may be going to a BYOB/BYOH (Bring Your Own Bible/ Bring Your Hymnal). Not every church is equipped to provide a projected displays of Scriptures or Hymnals to be viewed by congregants.
- The ritual of “Laying on of Hands” which is both a symbolic and formal way of invoking the Holy Spirit during deliverance, baptisms, healings, and ordination services. This is rite is considered vital in some denominations and is a Biblical practice.
- “Love Time” encourages greeting one another usually hugging and/or kissing one another along with other gestures with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Post-pandemic, we force to express love from afar and differently.
- Baptism, a Christian rite symbolizing the regeneration and admission to the Christian Church, will need to be reviewed. Most baptisms consist of immersion of the body in water whether that is a baptismal pool or a natural body of water. Anti-bacterial agents may be required to be used in water for baptismal pools especially if there are multiple candidates for baptism.
- Parishioners with underlining health issues, especially respiratory-related, may want to continue to “stay at home” for now. The fumes from intensified cleaning and disinfecting along with maintaining face covering can prove to be challenging.
- Sanctuary door ushers may be replaced with nurses using “no-touch” thermometers to greet parishioners and check for elevated temperatures along with identifying parishioners exhibiting symptoms. There are many who are asymptomatic and may not know that they are infected.
- Upholding the 6” social distancing requirement will prove to be problematic in smaller places of worship.
- For more charismatic denominations, sheets use to cover parishioners when “slain in the Spirit” will not be able to be reused on other parishioners.
- The CDC has issued additional guidelines for places of worship with nurseries.
It may be wise for smaller local assemblies to maintain having services online due to the additional expenses. If places of worship do not perform the tasks outlined by CDC they may be liable if their location became ground zero for an outbreak. Our celebratory worship practices and how we engage with one another will need to change. Parishioners are now challenged to express our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ differently and hopefully in more meaningful ways. While the CDC guidelines appear to go against every segment of our worship, there are some positives for us to consider.
- Worship services are no longer limited to a building. The Universal Church is called to stand out. We are ordered via The Great Commission to spread the Gospel through all nations. Now that more local assemblies have started using online services there are more options available.
- To me, the best part is that COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have not been able to suppress or stop people from accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- Refreshing transparency in ministry is unfolding. Spiritual Leaders take to online platforms and have very open and transparent conversations about ministry and how to proceed forward post-pandemic.
- Based upon the spiritual leaders that I have spoken with Tithes and Offering are up as a result of taking to an online platform.
- Spiritual Leaders are forced to think of innovative ways to engage their congregation and explore alternative worship experiences.
- More people have been able to attend alternative services such as Bible Study from the comfort of their homes.
- Due to the social distancing restrictions, it has given Christians to seek God through spiritual discipline for a refreshing and identify the next steps in ministry.
- The pandemic has been for many a test of faith causing us to rely on the promises of God.
While I do not believe God caused the COVID-19 pandemic, I do believe that he has allowed it to become a wake-up call to the nations. It is a test of our faith and an opportunity to draw closer to him. As each state begins to relax stay at home orders, it is no surprise that there is increase in diagnosis and hospitalization due to COVID-19.