The church never closed

31 May 2020 by Margaret Wigmore in: Looking Out

On the 2nd May 2020  Donald Trump urged the Churches of America to open "right away, this weekend."   Here is the very best possible response from the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Missouri, Deon K. Johnson:

"The work of the church is essential.

The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential.

The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential.

The work of being a loving, liberating, and life giving presence in the world is essential.

The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee and the undocumented is essential.

The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential.

The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbours and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church."

The Uniting Church in Australia has also been of the same mind, cautious to protect the older and more vulnerable people in our congregations. We are being nurtured by our Church in making decisions about these matters; we need to be sure that we are not simply rushed along with the excitement and anticipation that life will soon be “back to normal”. Life will return, step-by-step, to a situation that will be more like “normal” than the last few weeks have been. However, it is abundantly clear that life will not, indeed, be “back to normal”, as many are anticipating.

Life will change. Life will be different. Gathering-together, after a period of gathering-apart, will necessarily be different. Familiar customs and practices will not be able to be followed unthinkingly. Beloved institutions that have long been part of the Sunday worship rituals will need to be radically altered, or, indeed, put aside entirely.  Gathering for worship is important, but safety of people is more important.

In  (Psalm 40:11). we hear the prayer, “O Lord, let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever” We need to echo that sentiment and follow that commitment to safety as we gather together.