Back to Worship

When I launched this Back to Normal series just three weeks ago, the mainstream political position remained one of extreme caution. It was still “any mask is better than no mask,” and anyone unmasked was responsible for “allowing COVID to linger in our midst.”

A week later, the CDC waved its magic wand and suddenly 90% of Americans, including Shelby County residents, were transported from areas of “high” community transmission into territories where “community levels” were rated “low.” Never before has Science been so convenient and timely, as it allowed President Biden’s State of the Union address to appear normal so Democrats could claim victory over COVID-19.

That brings us to this week, in which the Shelby County Commission met in its committee room for the first time in two years, sitting together for hours with neither masks nor useless plexiglass shields.

Another major indicator of the COVID whiplash was a guest column in the Daily Memphian that would have been revolutionary had it been published only a few weeks ago.

In the editorial titled “It is time to go back to church, to synagogue, to the mosque,” Dr. Scott Morris argues “it is time to return because the moral soul of the planet is under threat in the invasion of Ukraine, and we can’t fight this evil via Zoom.”

It’s unclear why this particular threat demands in-person meetings while other, more local crisis points did not.

  • Only 11% of Shelby County students are on grade level. Did that not cry out for in-person, unrestricted support from people of faith?
  • Memphis has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates per capita in the wake of the pandemic. Why wasn’t it important to gather in prayer and solidarity over that?
  • There are still 1,000 fewer Shelby County residents working today than before the pandemic restrictions took hold. Shouldn’t our houses of worship have served as refuge for families experiencing both lost incomes and an increased costs of living?

Dr. Morris has my utmost respect, and the situation in Ukraine is horrifying, but this is an incomprehensible argument.

The bigger question is this: what changed? Why now?

“It now seems that it is safe for us to return to church,” he writes, because “the CDC has relaxed their guidelines about indoor masking.”

I could list 100 reasons why it’s important for us to return to worship and CDC guidelines on masking would not make the cut.

The main reason we should gather is because we are commanded to do so.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10

Church at home has become too comfortable. We are too removed from our brothers and sisters. Participation is too cheap.

It’s harder to encourage one another when we cannot see, hear, hug or speak with each other. It’s harder to do good deeds through a screen.

I agree with Dr. Morris. Let’s get back to worship.