The Case for A Physical Church Service In A Covid-19 Era

During the early church days, the believers are challenged with physical gatherings because the Roman government prohibits them. Once they are seen together, they are thrown into prison and even fed to the lions. However, this did not stop them for they still physically gather anyway but with caution. This is where the fish and bread symbol comes in handy to know who among them are real believers and pretenders.

In restricted countries like in China and many parts of the Middle East, Christians are also very careful to conduct physical meetings to avoid imprisonment, torture, possible deportation for foreigners, and worst a death sentence. But they still meet continuously.

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own; I do not speak for any other person, group or organization. Before commenting please read the entire article.]

Today, millions of believers are prohibited to meet physically for worship services not in restricted countries but many free countries. This is not because they are persecuted of their faith, but to protect them from the unseen enemy that harms their health, and the lives of the people around them. And since believers usually meet in close contact gatherings, many pastors shifted to live streaming church services to protect their flock. However, this kind of meeting could not be sustained for long since a church is designed for physical fellowship.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— Romans 1:11

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 1 Timothy 3:6

As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. – 2 Timothy 1:4

We can see how the apostle Paul and the church long to see each other physically. Some people might reason that virtual communication is also “seeing” the person physically. But there is something in the physical communication that cannot be replaced by virtual communication. Imagine a husband and a wife or a parent to their children geographically separated from each other while saying this is the same with a physical relationship. While some governments in many countries ordered the church to stop conducting their services, this is only for a time depending on the degree of virus infection of a population in a particular city.

Fortunately, there are now countries that allow churches to meet but in a small percentage of their church population with strong observance of proper health protocol. For instance, the Church of England states, “Whilst Government guidance has been revised to allow certain activities to take place in church buildings, it is still vital that the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are kept in place in order to protect the NHS [National Health Service] and save lives.” [1]

On the official website of the State of New Jersey it says, “Yes, houses of worship can open for in-person services. Individuals should check with their houses of worship to see if in-person religious services have resumed. While services can resume, houses of worship must comply with the limits on indoor gatherings.” [2]

The New South Wales, Australia authorities states, “On 2 August 2020, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant strongly recommended wearing a face mask: if it is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others in places of worship in indoor venues with a higher risk of transmission, where practical. Wearing a face mask in any of these settings is not mandatory but is highly recommended, especially in areas where there has been community transmission.” [3]

Truly, the church cannot stop from physically meeting each other. The church is designed by the Lord to meet physically because the church is a living organism that cannot be separated from each other by internet live streaming services. If the government and health authorities deemed fit for the church to physically meet with the observance of the required age, the proper number of people, and health protocol in order to prevent the risk of infection like wearing of doctor-endorsed facemask, and face shield, while keeping a safe physical distance from each other during the church service then we praise God for this.

If some adult believers can stay that long outside when they work, buy some groceries, go to the market, and eat at times in some restaurants while observing proper health protocol, then why not apply this in a church setting as well? I understand the wisdom but where does faith in God truly comes into play? Are some believers just being convenient, fearful, protective, worried, or making a good excuse to stop gathering together, as some are already habitually doing? I hope not.

“We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming” – Hebrews 10:25, God’s Word

References:

[1] Corona Virus (Covid 19) Guidance for Churches (Accessed Sept. 5, 2020)

[2] New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub (Accessed Sept. 5, 2020)

[3] NSW Government: Health Advise Update On Masks (Accessed Sept. 5, 2020)

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