After two months of being closed, due to the Coronavirus, our church is reopening. Here is why:
1. The Trump administration guidelines for "Opening Up America Again" outline three phases for states to gradually ease their lockdowns. Phase 1 set the target date of May 1 to systematically reopen the nation, but some states may be able to reopen earlier. Phase 1 includes churches. It's now the end of May and time for us to begin our plans to reopen.
2. In addition to President Trump's original guidelines, as of May 22nd he has deemed houses of worship, including churches, synagogues, and mosques as "essential." We didn't need permission before, but in light of this announcement, we have the official "go ahead" from our president.
3. State executive orders have imposed restrictions that essentially command all churches (no matter the denomination or form of worship) how to worship – online versus in-person religious services. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from prescribing the form or manner of worship. If people can be safe at a big-box store, with hundreds of people gathering there to pick up home improvement items, then the church can also reopen safely.
4. One of the meanings of the Greek word for church is "ekklesia," which means "assembly." The word "synagogue" is also derived from a Greek word, "sunagoge," meaning "an assembly of people" or a "place of meeting." We are the church and we are an assembly of people.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
5. The original plan for the stay-at-home order was to "flatten the curve." This was a necessary strategy that we supported in the context of a rapidly growing unknown virus. However, data is showing that the virus is considerably less deadly than originally feared and models and numbers have constantly been downward adjusted. The virus is primarily harmful only to a specific, identifiable portion of the population and many experts believe society, businesses and churches can make the appropriate adjustments to minimize much of the risk.
6. We know that the risk is out there. People make choices every day that increase their risk of dying. Your chances of dying while driving a car is real. We don't ban cars. Hundreds of children drown in pools each year. We don't ban pools. Five thousand Americans choke and die on solid food every year. We don't ban solid food. The truth is, we have accepted that there are trade-offs between the risk of death and quality of life, and we make them every day.
7. The virus shutdown is saving lives but also hurting lives. Depression, anxiety, suicide, obesity, and all of the other risks from inactivity and isolation will result in death. We are seeing these negative stats skyrocket and we are alarmed.