Idaho moved into phase 3 of reopening and the President announced days ago that Churches, Synagogues and Mosque are essential services, people want to know when will the church, the Synagogue, the Mosque open for worship?
Leaders of faith communities would tell you, that we never closed. Our buildings may have closed but our ministries have continued. We have shifted our sacred word studies, small groups, children and youth ministries to on line. We have continued our missions of feeding people and caring for the needs of those caught in the job shut downs created by the virus.
I believe that God cares more about the “how”, than the “when”. God cares more about how we return to in person worship than the when will we return to in person worship. Our Holy Scriptures teach us to “Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10b When we open is about options and the calendar. How we open is about loving our neighbors.
Why is it that some faith communities opened, some will soon open and some are waiting? Think of a stop light: green, yellow, and red. Living during COVID19 we have learned that there are medical professionals, state officials and denominations in each of these categories.
Some faith communities are green. Green is go. They are ready to go. They have opened. They have listened to state, denominational leaders, read the health guidelines and they have prayerfully made the decision to open now. They will work to provide safe in person worship. And people whose light is green will show up!
Some faith communities are yellow. Yellow is caution. Yellow slows down. These faith communities are listening to state and denominational leaders, they are read the health community guidelines and they have prayerfully begun working a plan to open in time. And they will open up slowly, step by step. Many in their community are glad that they are moving slowly and will wait and participate.
Some faith communities are red. Red is full stop. These faith communities are listening to state and denominational leaders, they are reading the health community guidelines and they have prayerfully begun working a plan to open in time. They may wait until there is a vaccine or a cure. They may wait until worship can be just like it was before COVID 19. Many people are red. They have personal health issues that put them in a higher risk category and they will not return until we have much greater testing, a vaccine or a cure.
Now here is the truth. Each faith community has people at each level. Our goal is not to convince you to move to our level, our goal as people of faith is to honor each other. As we learn where others are we honor them. Need to wear a mask? We honor that. Need to distance? We honor that. Need to wash hands, enter and exit the building differently, not sing. We honor that.
All faith traditions have some version of “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” During COVID 19 we Boise First United Methodist Church, the Cathedral of the Rockies will continue to worship together on line for the foreseeable future. We will not worship in person in June and maybe not July. We are yellow. We are seeking to create a plan that works in our context for our people. If we all seek to love our neighbor, we might understand that the “when” we open for public in person worship is not important, but the “how” we open is. What is your color?