Central Church is not reopening. That is because Central Church has never closed. Oh, we are not meeting together on Sunday mornings in our Sanctuary. Our building is closed, but, in the words of the old Avery and Marsh song, “The Church is not a building. The Church is not a steeple. The Church is not a resting place. The Church is a people.” And the people of Central Church have continued to serve Jesus Christ in our community and in our world just as we have for the past 150 years. We have continued to worship God, albeit differently than we ever imagined was possible just a few months ago. And we have continued to care for each other and to connect to each other and to encourage each other.
That is why I do not understand why some churches are defying the medical advice not to hold large group gatherings right now due to the very real risk that those gatherings will spread the deadly coronavirus. Oh, I hear some pastors saying that they have a right under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution to have large gatherings at their churches, and maybe they do. I mean, I am no lawyer, although I do know that our church accepts that town fire officials can set limits on occupancy for rooms in our building for safety purposes, and it seems to me that this is much the same sort of thing. But I do not really care to argue “rights.” That’s a legal argument. As a pastor, as a Christian, my concern is more with morality—not what are our rights, but what is the right thing to do, and putting people’s lives at risk in order to have a crowd at church on Sunday is just not right. It’s wrong—selfishness masquerading as faithfulness.
And so, Central Church is not reopening because we have never closed. We have accepted the best advice of the medical experts, trusting that God works through them to guide us. And so, we will not have large group gatherings in our building until those folks advise us that it is safe to do so, because we value human life, and we do not want to risk the life of anyone by disregarding what doctors have to say. In the meantime, we will continue to use our imaginations and the gifts that we have to serve Christ, to worship God, and to care for each other—to be the Church that we have been for the past 150 years.
–Pastor Don Steele