It had to happen, eventually. The health department here in Jackson County, Missouri, eased restrictions on public gatherings now that covid-19 cases are declining and vaccinations are rising. My Community of Christ congregation will resume worship services this Sunday. Inside the building, with people.
I’m not really enthused.
For the past 14 months I’ve enjoyed YouTube worship on Sunday mornings. Grab a cup of coffee, settle into a comfortable chair, and tell my Xfinity remote to connect on our Smart TV. All things considered, my congregation has done a pretty good job with both content and technical aspects.
It’s not just that Sundays are more relaxing now. It’s been a blessing for this introvert to skip the small talk that I’m told is an intrinsic part of being a faith community. My wife, however, is an extrovert who quickly grew weary of “video church” and can’t wait to get back to connect in person with everybody, especially for extended conversations in the church parking lot before and after the service.
With my first excuse sidelined, I suppose I could argue about the remaining health risks. Even with a second shot, I’m still at greater risk of covid because of the immune-suppressing meds I’m on for my liver transplants (later this month, incidentally, marks 20 years since those two transplants, three days apart, something of a medical miracle all its own). Ordinarily, that reasoning might be gold.
But balancing that is the fact that almost exactly two weeks after getting our second Pfizer shots, we drove 620 miles to Denver to spend time with our grandchildren, daughter, and son-in-law. We took precautions then, of course, yet it’d be a tough sell to say that a 45-minute worship service, with everybody masked and without hymn singing, would just be a risk too far.
And so it appears I’ll just bite the bullet and return to indoor worship services at church. That doesn’t mean I’m not troubled about “going back,” but just in a very different sense.
Like everybody else, I look forward to an end to this awful pandemic. Way too much death and suffering, especially because it appears much of it really didn’t have to happen the way it did.
In the meantime I keep encountering people pretending that everything between March 12, 2020, and now somehow didn’t happen–or didn’t matter. We’ll pick up where we left off, having learned nothing from the experience. There’ll be no “new normal”; just a return to the normal way things used to be. At least, that’s what some folks think.
This discussion could center on a whole range of relevant subjects: the pandemic’s effect on schools and education, health care, business and industry, politics, or simply making our way through regular daily routines. Let’s focus on religion, specifically “church,” however.
What have we learned these past 14 months? How do we view the regular, weekly practice of gathering in a building dedicated to that once-a-week experience? How much does it cost?
There’s the obvious cost of building and maintaining those church buildings. Somebody has to pay for the lights and water and heat (and air conditioning for many of us), along with a whole range of other expenses. Studies have shown that most congregations spend upwards of 75 percent of income on maintenance. Sometimes, much more. Whatever is left over (if anything) might get designated for mission, outreach, or service—or maybe just socked away for a rainy day. Funny how rainy days rarely come.
There’s personal costs, too, whether it’s about individuals, families, or the whole faith community. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one for whom Sundays are anything but a day of rest.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not against church buildings. They can be useful, practical, and even essential in many cases. My own congregation’s building (pictured at the top of this blog post) scores well on all three categories, I believe. I’ve often thought that, except for the giant cross on the outside, it could even be mistaken for an attractive LDS meetinghouse.
The building’s exterior is red brick. It wasn’t supposed to be that way originally. When the congregation was created back in the early 1980s, the name “Colonial Hills” was chosen, and it was assumed its new building would follow with the colonial theme: white, clapboard siding, steeple, etc. Missouri’s a long way from New England, not that it matters much. But one prominent older couple were adamant that a “real church” must be made of red bricks. Otherwise, nobody would recognize it as a church. If you’ve spent much time in congregational life, you no doubt have witnessed variations on that theme.
Through its first couple of decades the congregation grew, primarily because of an abundance of young children and teenagers. That alone attracted other families. As a result there was little need for active “missionary work.” While there was substantial support for what was then still the RLDS Church on a denominational level as well as Blue Valley Stake (soon to be supplanted by Central USA Mission Center), the congregation’s budget overwhelmingly reflected those familiar maintenance issues.
But then a crisis struck.
One Sunday evening in January 2003 a guy threw a brick through a back window, searching unsuccessfully for cash inside the building. We much later learned about his gambling and alcohol addictions. For reasons still unclear, he lit some candles (and quite possibly spilling some kind of fuel as well). By the time the fire department showed up most of the interior was gutted. All that fire, heat, smoke, and water damage meant just about everything inside would have to be replaced.
We began a long, arduous process of inventory, salvage, cleanup (including dangerous chemicals that had been released), and deciding what to do next. Another Community of Christ congregation invited us to share their building in the interim, which ended up lasting until Christmas. We faced some hard choices along the way: Do we merge our two quite similar congregations in one or two sites; sell the property (the Methodists next door expressed a strong interest in that) and either buy a vacant church building or acquire land and start over; or rebuild.
I think it was Winston Churchill who originally said to never waste a crisis. Anyway, after much prayerful consideration, we decided as a congregation that we should stay and rebuild. Something else remarkable happened, too. We took a good, hard look at why we felt God had placed us there in the first place, how we had fallen short in our discipleship, and committed ourselves to begin to look outward to the larger community we felt called to serve.
Within a few years we graduated from community events (Breakfast with Santa, Easter Eggstravaganza) to setting up a Necessities Pantry. In addition to providing things like diapers & toilet paper, deodorant & shaving supplies, detergent & hand soap, we spend time with the folks recommended to us by the Community Services League to see how they’re doing and what other help they might need from other organizations. We’ve developed an ongoing relationship with many of them. Well, that’s the way it worked until the pandemic hit, when we switched to a drive-by pantry. But in-person service is set to resume this month, as well.
The pantry led us to explore more long-term possibilities for community members in need. And so a separate nonprofit was set up that aims to provide housing for the growing homeless population in our part of the county. We have a builder in the congregation who’s come up with a new, lower-cost building plan. Another member is president of a credit union. We have existing contacts with CSL, Habitat, and a range of other nonprofits and for-profit businesses. Land abandoned for nonpayment of taxes will be the location of future houses. The $18,000 that was earmarked for youth-camp scholarships last summer (but cancelled due to the pandemic) went for seed money. It’ll take a whole lot more than that from us and others, of course, but we’re just getting started. Unfortunately, the cost of building materials has skyrocketed in recent months (another crisis?), so our timeline is pretty iffy just for that reason.
This plan could just as easily fail as succeed, or end up with something in-between or even totally different. What matters most, I think, is that we’re trying to translate “Love God; love your neighbor” into more than lovely words uttered once a week. It shouldn’t have to take a crisis to come to that realization, but sometimes it does.
About four decades ago my friends Richard and Barbara Howard rewrote the words to the familiar hymn, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.” (Dick is Community of Christ historian emeritus and Barbara was a longtime Herald House editor, who I was grateful to work with up until her retirement.) These words strike me as appropriate as we begin to emerge from this global pandemic:. Here’s a video version. (This Methodist choir does a lovely job, although I prefer to sing the hymn more up-tempo.)
Now in this moment, now in this day
God is creating and leading the way
Life is behind us, life is before;
We write the story not heard before.
This is our story, this is our song.
Praising our Savior all the day long.
This is our story, this is our song.
Praising our Savior all the day long.
Past, present, future, joy, sorrow, hope.
We write the story, and life is its scope
God’s love assures us through the unknown
God’s grace sustains us, we’re not alone.
Refrain:Copyright 1980 Reorganized Church of jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (admin. Community of Christ)
- What can or will your congregation, ward, or stake do to move forward as we emerge from the pandemic?
- Is this global health crisis a speed bump or a fork in the road to which you’re called to decide and respond?
- Do you try to go back to pre-pandemic times or move out in faith?
- What’s your definition of a “real church” these days?
Over the past 2-3 months, our ward has alternated weeks we met: A-L one week, M-Z other week. Then, a month ago it was meeting 2 out of 3 weeks. In May, we’re meeting every week and now adding Sunday School. I was surprised to hear my very tbm wife say she was bummed we are going back to every week. Sunday School was boring as I remember.
I’ve really enjoyed church at home.
I love this post. But it hits on so many issues, that I don’t know where to start.
One issue that bothers me is church/chapel design. It seems that the average ward/stake building is used sparingly. It sits empty or near empty most of the time. This emptiness will be amplified as Church services have been reduced from 3-2 hrs. Home religious study and/or small group study is being encouraged. And there is an attempt pare down the number of organizational meetings. To construct large church/chapels that sit idle for such a large portion of the week seems like a waste of resources. I keep thinking that there must be uses for Church building for the other 6 days of the week.
Then there is the issue of the church parking lots. Most along the Wasatch Front seem overly large. With only a portion used on Sundays. They remain mostly empty 6 days a week. Parking lots need to be sized appropriately.
My mother lives in St. George; few of the churches/chapels have xeriscaping. Yet the area claims to be water short, and is asking the State for millions to import water from Lake Powell. And the Utah/Arizona area is perfect for solar energy generation, but few chapels take advantage of this resource.
It is clear that a new design (or designs) are needed for today’s Church. If the Church decides to be more involved in the local and global humanitarian issues, then perhaps parts of the church building need to be repurposed.
Occasional use of technology for worship services is acceptable in limited, temporary circumstances. But it is not sufficient for sustainable spiritual growth.
True worship cannot occur when one is playing violent video games and letting a church service play in the background. That is the lazy man’s attempt to soothe his conscience from the guilt of not attending.
Not everything is good simply because it is new. If Covid has demonstrated anything, it is that irrefutable fact.
I would be careful rushing back to church. A close family member of mine is a kidney transplant recipient and immune-suppressed like you. After he finished his vaccines his doctor had him tested for covid antibody response. The result of the test showed he had “low to zero” antibody response to covid, in other words the vaccines didn’t do much for him.
Great post. A couple of thoughts:
1. I’m with you about meeting a lot of people who seem like they are going to just pretend the last 14 months didn’t happen. I remember when COVID really shut everything down, about March and April last year, I saw a number of articles about how “nothing will ever be the same again” and about how “this virus will irrevocably change America and the world” and I just sort of rolled my eyes. The marketplace is what drives everything in this country, so that as long as people can get their Chick-fil-a and their cheap goods at Walmart and watch movies, they will soon forget anything happened unless the virus really affected them personally. There is such a huge empathy gap in this country and both the pandemic and the current issues revolving around race demonstrate that. I’d like to think that church attendance would help close the empathy gap, but IMHO, even churches (definitely including the Mormon Church) have become so tribal that I don’t think going back to church is going to help much. In fact, it’s likely to just make more bright the lines and the judgements that were already there pre-pandemic.
2. I have no idea what my ward/stake will do to move forward. My guess is that we will have to deal with fewer people attending because a number of them have likely discovered that attending church isn’t nearly as important as they thought it was. I can envision the church assessing the damage the pandemic did to attendance numbers and then trying to do something that sounds impressive but is lame and ineffective, like the so-called “Swedish Rescue” or the whole “hastening the work” stuff. I don’t see us doing much of the substantive stuff you mention in your post.
3. As for me personally, as I mentioned in another recent post, I’m not looking forward to going back. I don’t want to turn this post into a political discussion, so all I will say is that I’ve got a lot less patience for people who labor under obvious delusions these days, which means I will probably have a much harder time at church keeping my mouth shut, which means I’ll be even more ostracized than I already am, which means I’ll look forward even less to attending church. I’m in a place where I’m much more okay with honestly weighing the costs and benefits of attending church and deciding that I’ll no longer attend if that’s what gives me the most peace. Time will tell. I’m going back this Sunday for the first time in 14 months.
I love how your church demonstrates loving our neighbor in a meaningful way. The necessities pantry is fundamentally useful.
Then your congregation used that as a stepping stone for more outreach. There is much tangible need. Thank you for sharing!
“Within a few years we graduated from community events (Breakfast with Santa, Easter Eggstravaganza) to setting up a Necessities Pantry. In addition to providing things like diapers & toilet paper, deodorant & shaving supplies, detergent & hand soap, we spend time with the folks recommended to us by the Community Services League to see how they’re doing and what other help they might need from other organizations. We’ve developed an ongoing relationship with many of them.”
And now you are moving on to bigger and more complex projects. I found this part of post fascinating, inspiring. This sounds like a great example for Mormon wards. If I understand the basic message of Christianity, it is: love God by loving your neighbor. In addition to the ideas in the post, I wondered about: (1) connecting a ward in a developed country with a branch/ward in a developing country, (2) having missionaries do more humanitarian work, (3) encouraging members or groups of members to set up NGO’s and helping them with funding, etc.
Your post is inspiring and humbling: thank you for sharing this! I wonder what good the LDS church could do if it directed the efforts of the young men and women on full-time missions toward serving the communities they live in along the lines of some of the things your ward has undertaken. They could render community service every day, all day, and then engage in traditional missionary teaching in the evenings. I think they would be happier missionaries, and many more people would be touched by their efforts.
I may be the contrarian here, but I’ve enjoyed going back to church for the last month. It’s been so nice to see people. I’ve missed the sociality if church. I tend to get more out of church socially rather than spiritually, so I’ve enjoyed it.
I don’t foresee my ward taking advantage of the crisis. I think people are trying to get back to the way things were. They’re not taking advantage of the positive changes that could be made such as continuing outreach through technology.
Mr. Charity has moved on from hotdog eating contests to violent video games. That’s progress.
As for your post, let me throw this out there: I know I speak for almost everyone (active, inactive, TBM) when I say that we have all looked forward to General Conference Sundays because we didn’t have to “go to church”. It was like a holiday. In fact, I found myself being more excited for the weekend than usual just knowing that I was going to have Sunday off. I’m not just talking about my life as a kid in the 70s and 80s…I’m also referring to my mentality as an adult. Believe me, when you’re on the High Council or in the Bishopric, you enjoy GC weekends as much as any teenager.
So, what’s my point? Well, if GC weekends were so utterly enjoyable all these years, what did we expect would happen when church meetings got cancelled due to Covid? The exact same mentality. I love my Sundays now. And I know I’m not alone. The Church has a major challenge on it’s hands: how to get those of us back who love the new normal.
Signed, Lazy Learner
My ward is currently in a hybrid model; in-person sacrament followed by 30 minute Sunday School or PH/RS (alternating weeks), with meetings live-streamed for those who choose to stay at home. It almost feels like the pre-pandemic status quo, but with masks and fewer people. Counting the in-person attendees and the Zoom participants, the total attendance numbers are still way, way below what they were pre-COVID. Some families have just completely disengaged, and I don’t really blame them. Our local leadership has done almost nothing for outreach. When meetings were first shut down last year, it was radio silence for months, and then a slow awkward transition to remote technology which they still haven’t fully embraced. Meanwhile, many families have come to enjoy sacrament at home and doing what works for them, and more time for recreation, “Second Saturdays”, etc., to the point that status quo church meetings are just not enticing enough. Who wants to go through the trouble of getting dressed up for boring indoor meetings when spring is in full bloom and the hiking trails are calling? Perhaps a lot of us are learning to redefine “church” beyond a bland building or a tiresome group of people.
The COJCOLDS leadership is certainly going to have to redefine things like “activity rates”, “ward boundaries” and “long-term growth”.
Another thing that makes it hard to go back is the fact that the political climate has changed considerably. Matters have been forced into relevance which were relevant, or as relevant, before. New divisions have arisen in society, and it is hard to maintain a community spirit these new divisions. Socializing with ward members will inevitably bring up the question of whether someone is vaccinated or not. And I know for a fact that many Mormons are anti-vaxxers, although I don’t know who among my ward community is. But finding out that someone is anti-vax will make it hard for me to validate them as a fellow community member. It will be hard to go back to church seeing some disobeying the church’s request to wear masks at church. What do I say to them? How do I interact with them?
Trump cultism has taken a new turn as well. Before, in 2016, when Trump won the election, if you found out that someone voted for Trump, you could give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they just saw Trump as the lesser of two evils and thought maybe he wouldn’t be as bad as president as he was on the campaign trail. Sure. But in 2021, being a Trump supporter means that you support a serial liar and someone who incited an insurrection. It is an indication that you live in an alternate reality. Again, I have a hard time validating someone who openly supports Trump as a community member. My inclination is not to want to have an association with them.
Count me in the “not missing in person Church” camp. Like, at all. It’s made worse by the fact that we moved to an area where we know nobody about six months ago. We’ve met a few ward members who were dilligent enough to check the boxes and visit us, and I even went out of my way to meet a few people, but even so, as adults, how important are these relationships? I’m not sure. I have seen a few ward friends from previous wards that we actually knew better, served with, raised kids with, etc.., but beyond some friendly chatter, it’s not a big impact in my life. The new ward is singing and has been for months, a choice I think is reckless, although most are masked (funny thing is, everyone in the front seems to be masked, but nobody in the overflow is, and overflow is not set up with distancing–not sure why this haphazard tiered approach).
Regardless of the guidelines and whether or not I approve of them, I haven’t missed the dull, repetitive correlated lessons (can I really sit through nearly identical discussions for 3 decades and be eager for more of the same?), and I haven’t missed the casual sexism and racism of my fellow congregants. In the wake of January 6th in which 70% of Republicans still believe the Big Lie that their candidate actually won, I am not excited to go to a new ward and find out that they are part of that delusion. How could I befriend someone I don’t need to know, I don’t need in my life, who is literally a conspiracy-theory believing lunatic with racist, sexist underlying beliefs? Why would I want to do that?
I live in a rapidly growing area of Salt Lake County – pre-covid we had overlapping times in the building for at least three wards – you would have to gently nudge Primary classes waiting in the halls from the other ward in order to clear a path to get to Sunday School. What will the new normal be? Dealing with similar issues at work and looking at an August return-to-work date. My SP is a physician so I think he is being cautious.
We are starting second hour again in two weeks. We have been having sacrament meeting since March when the Supreme Court said closing churches in CA was discriminatory. My wife is the Primary President in our ward. She is down a counsellor, needs a pianist, needs 5 teachers, and has no nursery workers for the 4 nursery kids. We live in a fairly transient area.
She feels overwhelmed right now getting things up and running again and how she’s going to follow protocols to keep everyone safe. So her suggestion to the bishop was that we not reopen nursery at this time (which was supported by her counsellor and her secretary).
Our Bishop disagreed and took it to a vote in ward council (tally count, 8 men, 3 women). Ward council basically unanimously supported the Bishop (big surprise, right?). She felt completely embarrassed and alone during this “vote.” I cornered the Bishop at the YM/YM activity Wednesday night and he basically said “I get outvoted at work all the time; get over it.” Because we should run our church like a for-profit corporation I guess.
Look, we really don’t care if they re-open Nursery or not (other than my wife isn’t sure how to re-open everything at the same time given her support structure is not currently operational). Our kids are in primary and YM/YW so it doesn’t really impact us. But having our first moment back at in-person church be so traumatic has given us serious misgivings about re-joining a community where we have always felt like misfits pre-pandemic.
Anyway, thanks for listening to our experience. I don’t really have anyone else to share it with, and it feels healthy for me to type it out and process it.
No one in the pastoral church can be commanded to do anything. We lead by persuasion, love unfeigned, and so forth — not by voting.
The Primary president can accept the ward council vote as one input, along with other inputs. But she need not re-open Nursery until she and the nursery leaders are ready.
Ward council votes are meaningless, because everyone votes the way the bishop says to.
If the Primary president doesn’t want to re-open Nursery yet, the bishop can (1) persuade her, (2) wait for her, or (3) release her. That’s how the Lord tells us to function
I second (or third?) John W’s and Angela C’s remarks about politics and division. I’m fine with attending church with folks who disagree with me on the tax code or how much/whether we should cut the military budget or even who voted for Trump.. But I do not want to attend church with people who believe COVID is a hoax or that science is fake or who are anti-vaxx. Those beliefs literally endanger lives and I would not be able to countenance sitting and chatting casually with folks whose choices could literally kill other people. I have absolutely no interest in communing with those folks at all.
Thanks for all the excellent comments. Well, I’m still trying to figure out how to play a violent video game while watching online worship. Not sure that’s really a thing anywhere, but who knows?
I do wonder how much church leaders, at whatever level, are aware of the crisis facing the church right now. Church members have been voting with their feet in increasing numbers for decades, but the pandemic has sped up the exit.
I don’t think it’s that people are abandoning religion as deciding to absent themselves from church-going. The comments here reveal there are many reasons for this. You can’t learn from a crisis if you refuse to believe there is one. And then it might be too late.
I must say the last few months I have been wanting to go to Church. Not that I enjoy Church but I have been really needing to feel closer to GOD. I guess I was hoping the absence might be a chance for a reset for both me and the Ward. But after several attempts I come home with the feeling of, same church, same leaders and the same talk on the same old worn out conference talk. I feel more spirituality on a golf course than in our Chapel. I keep hoping that one day a revelation will appear to whoever “that being close to GOD is more important than cleaning the church.” For me Going back means Same Old Same Old.
I know you TBM’s are saying it’s Me not the the Church and I already know I will never be good enough
Chadwick: I want to second everything ji just said. Sometimes people like your bishop forget that church is VOLUNTARY. Just as you can’t forcibly give someone a massage (h/t Seinfeld), you can’t force people to show up and run the nursery, which is a hard pull at the best of times. If I were your wife, I would say “Great! Every person who voted to reopen the nursery is now the nursery staff. Good luck!”
@Chadwick, that’s pretty infuriating that your bishop wouldn’t listen to the primary president’s recommendation for the organization she’s supposed to run. 100% agree with Angela – all those who voted in favor of reopening need to be the ones to staff it. Win/win.
Where I live in Canada things are going in the opposite direction. Vaccine roll out has been too slow to head off the third wave and our per capita infections are the worst in the country. As a result the provincial government has mandated a maximum of 15 people at a time for church attendance. This means only those invited and participating in the service will attend and everyone else will view online. This doesn’t change much for me as I’ve not been attending in person. I also anticipate when this is all over that my church attendance habits will be forever changed. I’ve lost my testimony, my husband hasn’t and there’s definitely fatigue from growing polarization on vaccines, masking and spillover from the Trump factor – yes in Canadian congregations even 😳
I applaud the community outreach happening from the OP’s congregation.
@chadwick – so agree with other comments. I’d just refuse and let them deal with the fallout. It sounds like she’s under supported or have they organized the required staffing? Thank goodness for 2-hour and not 3-hour church though!
My “cafeteria mormon” beliefs are now made manifest in my attendance. Even though I’ve never been a fan of fast and testimony meeting, I always dutifully attended. But since in person church resumed a few months ago, I now choose to stay home on first Sundays.
My road to hell is widening… 🙂
After coming out, I had already left the CoJCoLDS prepandemic, opting for the local Lutheran church which had more music, better sermons, and spoke of Christ in word and in deed. I’m more or less agnostic, but I love church music.
When Covid hit, I stopped attending all religion. I doubt I’ll return regularly. The pandemic pause has made me realize how ineffective religion is at helping me become a better person. I can get more from a good Ted Talk than a General Conference priesthood meeting retread. (I would like bear my testimony that Brené Brown is a true prophetess.)
“ Well, I’m still trying to figure out how to play a violent video game while watching online worship. Not sure that’s really a thing anywhere, but who knows?”
If you count playing PacMan 99 on the Switch during EQ Zoomcast then guilty as charged,
You might try another denomination. With many still holding virtual services, its a great time to experiment. I have found a local United Methodist Church whose services I really find inspiring. Wish we had a Community of Christ congregation nearby. I still tune in to our sacrament meeting every once in awhile, but they just aren’t as Christ-centered as the UMC services. Plus the local UMC pastors are women, which is a nice change of pace. It really restored my Sabbath mornings after realizing I was getting nothing (or worse, angry because of gay-bashing) from LDS sacrament meetings. I still tune in to Dialogue Sunday Study. But I don’t think I am going back to regular in-person LDS ward meetings maybe ever.
I’m not a fan of going back, and don’t understand how politics has taken over common sense. Last Sunday a man who lost his mother to Covid prayed his gratitude that we were “getting our freedoms back.” If losing a parent doesn’t change your mind, what will?
Thank you Rich for sharing your thoughts. As a fellow introvert you comment about small talk and community hit home. I also wish we as a society would really look at a reset and try to learn from this experience instead of rushing back to how things were. I know change is hard and humans like stability but we’re we really that happy in our previous normal? Can’t we try some things different when it comes to worship, work, school, etc? I had at least hoped that we would understand the importance staying home when you are sick and paid sick leave but apparently not.
Like others have stated I too love the community outreach and support your church is trying to do.
I’m with @bdb on the issue of giving yourself permission not to return to church yet if you have a health condition that makes it risky.
I hope you won’t let anyone engage in efforts to persuade you to return when it’s not yet safe for you. It strikes me as a false equivalence. Attending congregational meetings is not the same as working as a grandparent to help nurture young grandchildren who need caring adults in their lives. We all have varied risky activities. Managing risk doesn’t mean we have to avoid every higher-risk activity, but we can evaluate our obligations and priorities so that we minimize certain risks so that we can fulfill other obligations such as attending to the care and nurturing of young grandchildren (even with the risk that may entail). Others in the congregation can lift and support those at church who need care, but only you can fulfill the role you do for your grandchildren. I wish you the best as this all unfolds.
Thinking about other global organizations:
Burger King is evaluating restaurant designs for a post-pandemic world.
My local McDonald’s is still closed for dine-in.
My brother is a bishop who also happens to be an ER doc in an area that is experiencing yet another surge of Covid. When the Area Authority commanded the SPs to demand that all wards begin full congregational meetings with a Zoom option for those who don’t feel comfortable attending my brother was apoplectic when he got the news. As a doctor he took an oath to “First, do no harm.” As a bishop to invite his entire congregation to return to church was the breaking of his oath. He called the AA and explained the nuts and bolts of public health policy and hygiene during a pandemic. The “authority” accused him of not having enough faith to follow his instructions. My brother asked if this directive came from the Q 15. No, it came after his own praying about the matter. Was he a doctor or a scientist who was trained in public health matters? No, he wasn’t, but the Spirit had told him that the members HAD to be back in the pews or else. Or else what? No answer. My brother now knows that he’s on this man’s radar screen which could be a very bad thing for him. His SP is sympathetic to his serious concerns but doesn’t want to cause problems with the AA and possibly have the problem reported higher up the chain of command. My brother just wants to be released from his calling because he’s burned out from Covid, a ward that’s at war with itself and now he’s got an unreasonable AA who feels that church is more important than the health and well-being of members. I don’t blame him.
Rich Brown: Liberal principles have been an ever increasing influence for the RLDS/CofC since the mid-60s; when the “Position Papers” were formulated. Each decade, more and more beliefs were branded non-progressive and swept out the door. Oh No, you say, the church has always accommodated traditional beliefs. So why is rejecting the Book of Mormon a “Faith Stance” while rejecting OWP is grounds for excommunication?
Yes, members voted with their feet, as well as their pocketbook. W. Wallace Smith was a progressive president, but even he was led to say Stewardship is required and drugs, drinking, and fornication were called the grosser sins of the world. The “woke” members didn’t agree.
But the Liberal ideals are mostly in place now. So why aren’t the members supporting the church?
And yet, there those on the other blog site going on about the tyranny of masks and other responsible restrictions. If you can’t trust out fellow saints to do the right thing, then why should we go back.?
Where do I even begin.
1. No I don’t want to go back yet.
2. Our bishopric changed last summer and husband is now a counsellor.
3. I’m a counsellor on primary presidency.
So we had in person meetings from late summer until the beginning of December.. which were also broadcast via Zoom. We attended every other week. Masked and distanced in theory. But in practice members were very bad at observing distancing. A matter of considerable stress for me, particularly as my husband as a member of the bishopric was one of the named individuals on the required health and safety document for the meetings…
That being so. this time around as in person meetings have begun again, we are participating via Zoom only, and other members of the ward council have agreed to take responsibility by being the named persons..
So that’s one thing.
I feel like I’ve been forced into a position of opposing authority ever since last summer, from highlighting the risks of removing masks at a pulpit shared by other people (makes fast and testimony meeting gel like a super spreader event! ), to calling out the irresponsibility of holding in person youth activities when there were climbing infection rates just days before our city was put into a level 4 lockdown prior to Christmas. I totally lost it, in no uncertain terms in a recent zoom stake primary meeting, geared towards welcoming the children back to primary in June, which did not address any health and safety aspects. And I found the attitudes towards vulnerable teacher safety of other attendees to be very chilling.
So June… apparently by 21 June the government are promising no masks and no distancing. If that’s going to be the case at church then absolutely no way do I want to be there.
Currently less than half the adult population of the country are fully vaccinated. On current schedules it isn’t until the end of July that all adults will have had their first vaccine, never mind their second. We already have current cases of transmission of covid in schools. and from schools to the parents and wider family. With some parents getting very sick. The Indian variant of the virus is now circulating and evading the vaccine- it has done the rounds in a London care home making fully vaccinated residents sick. None died but several did spend time in hospital. It really doesn’t feel like we should be getting rid of masks or distancing any time soon.
My stake leaders seem to be particularly gung ho about things, and this stake is an area where infection rates are still 2-3 times the national average. Compared with the area where one of my kids has been working for the past year, an area with infection rates just half the national average and where local church leaders seem to be far more circumspect.
Unlike Burger King (from way back in the day), how many churches promise: Have it your way!
Attended church today. My wife and I attend the Spanish ward in South Jordan. Everyone was wearing a mask. Walking to the chapel for sacrament meeting, I noticed lots of adults from the English ward maskless. And during sacrament meeting the bishop read a letter from the area presidency encouraging members to wear masks. Not wearing a mask is just plain flagrant violation of what the leadership is telling members to do. It is unconscionable. And yet many of these maskless people wear garments nearly 24/7 out of a sense of obedience to what the leaders are telling them to do and because they believe it will provide them a spiritual and even physical protection. And when there is a consensus of public health officials, who all have the highest amount of educational training to fill their positions, telling people to wear masks to prevent the spread of a deadly virus (the numbers of daily cases of which are still high) and whom the church leaders have routinely shown support and respect for and after whose words they have shaped their gathering policies, the very people who obsess about garment-wearing and exact obedience, feel it their prerogative to flout the rules?
Excellent discussion on a suddenly relevant topic. The Church and the various units did a good job, on the whole, pulling back from in-person attendance, supporting Zoom meetings, and supporting a gradual “masks and social distancing” approach to slowly restarting in-person meetings.
But now it seems like the authority to start things up again, just like nothing happened, has been delegated to AAs, SPs, and bishops, who are all now suddenly going all-in on in-person attendance. It’s like the Church played the beginning and middle game pretty well, but didn’t think through the endgame and what “new normal” should look like. Just now suddenly defaulting to “let’s get back to the old normal,” as if the last 14 months didn’t happen. This might create some real problems. First, some people aren’t medically advised to try the old normal, and some people aren’t psychologically ready for it. Second, we could easily get yet another surge in cases. They really ought to go a little slower on this transition back to “normal” and think harder about some permanent changes.
I think you’re right about the possibility of another surge in some places, probably by fall when schools return fully. Saw this morning that Louisiana & Mississippi, two states with 30% vaccination rates, are turning away more doses from feds. I don’t know exact number but I don’t think Utah and Idaho are much different, for example. Seems like asking for trouble.
More updates from Salt Lake County (1) masks required at my local Deseret Book.(2)I think it will be a while until walk-ins are welcome at any of our local temples, but I could be wrong.
Getting off of the “Mormon Treadmill” – even forcibly so, during a pandemic – has proven to be a remarkable gift. I’ve decided that (under no circumstances) am I “climbing back on”….