How should the Church respond in the time of Covid-19?
Good morning beloved. It is Easter 2020 and we are in midst of a global pandemic, caused by Covid-19, also known as the Corona Virus. We have been ordered by City and State municipalities to stay at home. I know many churches has been struggling trying to figure out how to respond in the time of Covid-19 now that virtually everyone has been ordered to practice social distancing in order to help slow the virus and eventually flatten the curve, and thus eventually get rid of the virus.
I know churches are suffering and many will not survive without tithes and or offering from its members. After this is all over, many churches will cease to exist. Because it is while congregating that we practice the gift of giving to God, from what God has helped us to gain money through our work. And this is how the church pays its bills. So, what should a church do? Should we meet by faith anyway, because our God is more powerful than Corona? Two weeks ago, while we were serving on the Streets of Skid Row a self-proclaimed neighborhood prophet told me that we should be praying and fasting, and that the reason we are not overcoming Covid-19 is because we are not praying and fasting. Now, I believe in praying and fasting and I’m sure there are those who are praying and fasting. But the question is, should we fast and pray and continue to go to church, defying stay at home orders, because we are praying and fasting that God would destroy Corona? The gentleman indicated that the pastors who had passed away due to Covid-19 did not have faith and that they did not believe. Yet some of those who passed away were doing exactly what this man is suggesting, they had church regardless of the social distancing orders, proclaiming that they had strong faith, and eventually paid the price.
On another occasion another gentleman was angry with me and cussed me up one side and down the other side because I wanted him to practice social- distancing while we were getting ready to serve food & give hygiene materials to homeless people in need.
Beloved, in the past month I have been contemplating these things and so, this Easter morning here’s a word that I felt the Lord has pressed upon my heart.
Jesus put His life in danger because He came to die. What did you come to do? What is your mission which you’ve been given? God’s mission for everyone is not that everyone should die exactly like Jesus did. But to make disciples. As a matter of fact, until the actual day that He was appointed to death Jesus actually escaped from danger. Jesus did not let anyone violently lay hands on Him until the appointed time. Indeed, He often ran away from danger. Here’s one example: Jesus is arguing with some religious leaders who did not like what he had to say, so. Luke tells us that “Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30.but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:29)
Loved-one in the era of Covid-19 don’t go to church; be the church, until we have been cleared to congregate again. Beloved be wise. The writer of proverbs tells us that: “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.” (prov. 22:3)
For example, at our church “The Row-LA-The Church Without Walls-Skid Row” we have decided that some of our most faithful leaders should stay home. Once the shelter at home orders were given we decided we would not go out at all, but we got word that other churches who usually serve the homeless will not be doing so, and as a result quite a bit of folks were going hungry, and thus a couple of us decided to respond to the need. We went out and did our normal service of serving food, giving out water, handing out hygiene kits and with handwashing stations which we helped our community partner LA Can build we were able to encourage people to wash their hands before they eat. All this is in addition to our ongoing advocacy work, most of which is now taking place online.
Maybe this was the only time that some washed their hands for the day. Though we’re not congregating “The Church Without Walls” is responding to the Macedonian call to please come bring some food, please bring some masks, please bring some hand sanitizer, please pray for me. The world doesn’t see us as an essential business but we know better. By the way, you can congregate in the spirit from anywhere even if you’re not together in person. Heck, you can even meet on social media or on platforms such as zoom and ring central, but you cannot feed the hungry or build hand stations to help where the city is falling short in order to help homeless people stay clean online. Even if you could at some point you need to bring it to them.
Fam, as people with a roof over our heads, we’ve got essential delivery services such as Door Dash & Instacart going grocery shopping for us and delivering the groceries to our door steps, we see these as essential services. The church is the essential delivery service to the poor. Let me say it again-the church should be the Door Dash to the poor. Now, I’m not advocating that you go out and do this, thereby putting yourself in danger. As a matter of fact, I suggest you stay at home. I am saying however, that some of us are doing what we can as safely as we can.
Yes, we strap on our N-95 masks, put on our gloves, grab our hand sanitizer, grab our homemade hand washing stations made by the community and we go to work by the grace of God; and by faith. We protect ourselves because we want to make sure we protect our families but we go to work. This is not just what Jesus would do as a saying, it is what Jesus did. When He healed people knowing it could cost Him His life. When He defended a woman caught in the very act of adultery, He knew it would cost Him His life. When He defied religious and cultural norms in order to save physical lives, not just spiritual lives. Jesus cared about both the physical immediate needs and the spiritual need of human beings, that is why “Jesus wept” even though He knew He was about to raise a dead Lazarus from the grave.
You may say well if we don’t put our lives on the line like Jesus by going to church and congregating how will folks get saved? Remember you will be able to do that again after the stay at home orders are lifted. Until then you don’t have to meet in person as the church to be the church. Find wise, creative and loving ways to be the church.
Pastor Stephen “Cue” Jn’Marie The Row-LA- “The Church Without Walls”-Skid Row