In response to Pastor Bell and Calvary Baptist Church, I am wondering, as a minister and chaplain, how do we love our neighbor during this pandemic?
Some religious leaders and communities are arguing that religious liberty is at stake, that we should be allowed to practice our faith in person with one another, regardless of the public health ramifications. Others advocate that faith is bigger than our in-person gatherings. My personal favorite came from an Italian priest, when COVID was at its worst there. He was praying for patients, sometimes behind a window, and said, “My prayers can go through the glass. If they didn’t, I’d have a problem.”
The argument that the government is violating the First Amendment by prohibiting people from worshipping is false. No one is trying to stop worship. The suggestions from our scientific and public health leaders (many also people of faith) simply advocate for worship to look different.
The truth is, the practice of faithful people has never been contained to a physical building. Neither Jesus nor Moses nor Mohammed nor the Buddha would contest this. Our temple is the world, not the bricks and mortar and steeple of our buildings. Our prayers can go beyond glass, our scripture can be heard from behind masks, and hands can hold others’ fears and worries through gloves. Our faith is necessary to carry us through these scary, uncertain times. And I hope that we all continue to practice with love and care for ourselves and our neighbors.
Rev. Sarah Gillespie