Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Forbidden by the Church. . .
I know it is out of good intention that churches and clergy have decided to shutter the doors rather than try other means to gather within the limitations. I know it is out of good intention that churches and clergy are trying innovative but less than faithful solutions (such as live streaming the consecration to bread and wine at home or drive by services where the Sacrament is distributed like fast food). My point is not to criticize the intentions but to suggest that there are other possibilities. Multiply the number of services.
If a Divine Service is held daily and several on Sunday that would accommodate several times the number of people normally in attendance at most smaller congregations. In places where there are several ordained serving one congregation, it is possible to run those services simultaneously but far apart in the building and make a good effort at reaching as many as can be reached.
My own parish (with two pastors) has had 18 Divine Services a week for several weeks, each with nine lay and a pastor with an abbreviated Divine Service (confession, absolution, collect, Gospel, hymn, homily, creed, prayer, preface, Sanctus, Eucharistic prayer, Agnus Dei, Distribution with social distancing, and benediction -- it takes about 40 minutes at most!). Most of the slots have been filled. If needed, we tell people to skip a week so that somebody else can fill their spot and so as many as desire may participate. It may not work in all places but it could in some.
Other parishes have scheduled sacramental visitation at the church for those who desire -- sort of like the sick and shut in communions except at the church building. In several places they have run these over several hours over several days and thus allow as many as desire to continue to hear the Word, be absolved of their sins, and receive the body and blood of Christ. Again, it may not work in all places but it could in some.
There have been ways used in the past in time of plague and pandemic rather than completely shuttering the doors and there have been options other than virtual communions that tend to spiritualize something intended to be physical. Perhaps we have rushed too quickly to our technology simply because we have it available?
Before you rush to judge, my point is this. The churches have acquiesced to shuttering the doors and turning the faithful away. We could be faithful and try other possibilities besides effectively forbidding the faithful from coming to the Lord's House. Not everyone would come but many would and desire such -- especially because they are surrounded by bad news, panic, and despair and their faith yearns the comfort and peace of the Word and Table of the Lord. We are not being unfaithful. We clean the building regularly after each group. We have hand sanitizer all over the place. We ask symptomatic people and those who have been around symptomatic people not to come. We are not flaunting the law or medical advice but working within their constraints. I know the intentions are good on all sides but I fear the churches have been too quick to close and wish we would have thought about other possibilities -- especially since this appears to be a long haul and not a sprint to the end of a pandemic.