During the pandemic, many people have suffered. Mental health issues are soaring and people are in desperate need of encouragement. One of the main places where people can come to be encouraged and join with others to practice their religion is churches, and other places of worship.
In Toronto right now, places of worship are completely shut down. Massive buildings that can hold several thousand people are included in this shut down, even though social distancing can be easily achieved.
Currently with Manitoba is the the same scenario, and in fact to an even greater extent. Until Dec 8th, even drive-in services were not allowed in the province.
That in itself should be a warning sign of the extent that governments are shutting down churches; there is no reason for people who are sitting in cars, windows down doors closed to not be allowed to come together for worship.
Some churches in Manitoba have taken a stand against this non-logical lockdowns, including Springs Church, which continued to have drive-in services.
Other Manitoba pastors actually spoke out against this church, saying that they should obey the restrictions.
Pastor Erik Parker was one such pastor, “Ultimately, the call of Christians is to love one another and love the world and care for the world the best we can, and so I think fighting for your rights to worship, when gatherings are only suspended for a temporary amount of time, and we can still worship online, it comes across as selfish, to me, when we can endure this brief lockdown and gathering at a time that’s right”.
Here’s the difference of approach I have with Pastor Parker’s choice of words: yes we are called to love one another, and yes we are called to care for the world, but it’s been 9 months and churches are still being asked to operate with limited capacity or not at all.
I’m not denying the existence of COVID-19, it’s a real virus, and yes it has killed many people. However, the mental health of Canadian citizens is suffering, and believers need to gather together in order to be strengthened.
Churches are an essential service. They are absolutely more essential than liquor and cannabis stores, which by the way, have remained open.
Hebrews 10:25 outlines the Biblical imperative for Christians, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”.
While the Bible does instruct to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” or in other words “pay your taxes, and obey the law” it also shows that many times when the early church was threatened to be shut down, they defied the government.
Christians are called to divine obedience over governmental obedience. No matter who serves as Prime Minister or President, the One who sits on the throne will never change.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it clear that we are guaranteed the rights to religious freedom, subject only to reasonable limits. Churches are questioning if this is really a “reasonable limit”.
Suicidal thoughts in North America are up 15% among young adults and 7% among all ages. Mental health is lower than we’ve ever seen.
Churches have been shown through study to improve mental health, and in a time where people are feeling lonely, isolated, and in need of comfort from both people and God, we need churches to be open.
If there’s anytime to be in church, it’s now. If there’s any time to pray for a world in need, it’s now.
This is not the time to close the doors to our churches, but instead a time to gather together, (keep social distancing rules, keep masks on) but by all means come together and worship God.