Notes on the Reopening Question
Notes on the Reopening Question
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Q: What’s Changed?
The big news this week is about the country’s re-opening plans now that we hope (fingers crossed) we’re on the down-slope of the COVID–19 curve. One of the largest complications we face as a nation and across the globe, in my opinion, is that a large number of us who haven’t become infected have instead developed a serious case of cabin fever. Many of us are itching to get out of the house and get back to a sense of normalcy.
There are also many people who need to get back to work as soon as possible, either as employees or as business owners. And doubtless, every nation’s economy needs to get back up and running. So, the pressure comes from several angles. With a weak economy, people suffer for other reasons unrelated to the virus. The human race is stuck trying to balance psychology (in the form of our impatience), public health (slowing the rate of infection), and world economics (less commerce means fewer jobs). The road ahead won’t be easy.
Q: What Does that Mean for Us?
1. As a church, we’re fortunate that we aren’t under the same pressure that most businesses face:
- No one’s income is affected (we don’t have a church staff that needs to work in the building, as some large churches do).
- Our online worship services are working out fine in lieu of our regular services, even enabling us to visit with each other. So what we normally do can continue in a different context.
- We do not get much foot traffic at the church from anyone other than our own members, and even that occurs mainly on Sundays. So having the building closed is not likely to prevent walk-in visitors on a significant scale.
2. On the other hand, even if we needed to re-open, we would face some significant challenges because:
- Our congregation includes many seniors, so we have a high percentage of those most vulnerable to either catching or developing severe symptoms.
- There’s no way we could get everyone in the building at the same time and maintain social distance.
- We would need to hold multiple services to accommodate multiple smaller groups.
- Our denominational home office advises we not spend time socializing because it increases the risk of infection, so we would end up with less ‘church time’ than we do now online.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s plan allows for an initial 2-week trial to see how things go. Phase 2 depends on the success of phase 1. If phase 1 doesn’t go well, we will have risked our members’ health when there was no urgency.
- By law, we would need to carefully disinfect the church building after each use.
Q: What’s the Plan?
With all that in mind, the Advisory Team and I agreed we’ll keep the church building closed for a while longer. There just isn’t a pressing need to get back to what we did before, and there are too many risks. We’ll keep evaluating as the situation changes. Our main concern is the same as that of the Hippocratic Oath: ‘Do no harm.’ We want everyone to stay healthy and safe and still be able to function as a church. So far, streaming services allow us to do just that.