Do churches provide ‘Essential Services?’
In mid May, President Donald Trump called for governors to classify churches and other houses of worship as “essential.” The President asked that churches be allowed to reopen for Memorial Day weekend even though some states remain under strict coronavirus lockdown.
“Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential,” the president said. “But have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
“Governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now — for this weekend,” Trump said at the White House press conference.
“I hope governors do as the president asked and understand that people of faith do not meet at churches and other religious centers to simply fill a building. We do so because it’s an integral part of what our faith teaches about how we should live,” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. told Fox News.
Responsible prevention practices are essential for a trouble-free opening of all houses of worship, a multi-faith coalition of religious leaders state.
Other religious leaders seem to agree. The International Multi-Faith Coalition (The IMFC) urged that “responsible adoption of guidelines to ensure the physical as well as the spiritual health of those they serve” be observed as churches look to reopen. The IMFC stated that all houses of worship should review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance for Communities of Faith and adopt them to ensure trouble-free opening and to keep their parishioners safe and well.
“We believe one of the most important points is to educate the religious communities on the proper precautions to take while practicing their faith, as well as in daily life,” said Bishop Craig A. Worsham, President of The IMFC.
Rodriguez agrees. “Of course, each church and other religious center will need to formulate its own plan depending on where they are located, in order to meet their community’s specific needs and concerns. But adopting a cautious, phased and flexible plan should help places of worship resume services in a responsible and ethical manner.”
What essential services do churches provide?
Besides the obvious benefits of fellowship, meditation, positive reinforcement, and the healing power of prayer, pastors point to the many hands-on ministries local churches provide as evidence that churches are necessary, not just for the local congregations, but for the community. Local churches provide a myriad of services including grief counseling, marriage counseling, and other therapy; food banks; disaster relief; poverty assistance; clothing donations; housing; assistance for senior citizens; and resources for children, women and families, to name a few.
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“The role we play as houses of worship in times of crisis cannot be underestimated,” Bishop Worsham affirms. “Many Houses of Worship indeed have been providing essential services to the community at large such as but not limited to: Emergency Food & Clothing, Housing, and Testing.” He points to several churches which have already implemented necessary measures and made resource centers available for their religious communities.
“Gathering with others for a religious or spiritual service during a time of crisis brings comfort to many and strengthens not only individuals, but whole communities as those individuals go out to encourage and minister to others,” Samuel Rodriguez states.
Many have wondered what changes to expect at their local church services after the long COVID-19 lockdown is lifted. Read the following articles for more info on how the church will look after Coronavirus, and tell us how your local church is handling things in the comments below.
- Will the Church Recover After COVID-19?
- Will People Return to Church After Coronavirus?
- Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship
- Shuffling in the Pews: Post-Pandemic Church Attendance Predictions
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