Are Churches Essential?
While strolling down the aisles of a packed Lowes the other day, it occurred to me: how can Lowes, Home Depot, not to mention liquor stores and pot shops, be deemed “essential” by Gov. Kate Brown during this COVID-19 pandemic, but churches are not? At the heart of the debate about churches being allowed to open is this question: should churches be considered essential? During Oregon’s ongoing and apparently never-ending “stay-at-home” orders this spring, you could find hundreds of people swarming the garden center at Lowes like honeybees. What makes one organization or business essential and another “non essential”? Why are churches and houses of worship in many states considered essential but not in more liberal states like Oregon? The Church serves many vital purposes in our communities. On a daily basis, the Church deals with life, it deals with death. Your pastors baptize children, marry couples, speak at the funerals of your loved ones. For those who are Christian, the gathered Church is the body of Christ. In fact, during this time, when fear, isolation and hopelessness are so prevalent, it is the Church alone, that has the essential message of hope, healing and restoration. Namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church certainly should be considered essential.
We applaud the decision of Governors DeSantis and Abbott of Florida and Texas in declaring Churches essential. Likewise, we affirm the dozen or so states that have made similar statements. Gov. Brown has usurped power she was never intended to have and through emergency declarations, become more of an authoritarian ruler instead of a Constitutionally-bound public servant.
We want to make it clear that just because we feel the Church should be considered essential, we are not advocating for reckless mass gatherings. That is a straw man argument that people love to throw at us. What we are saying is that we would like Gov. Brown to recognize houses of worship as important enough to our communities to be considered essential. Note that she did not even mention houses of worship in last week’s address. Pastors and churches should be treated with respect and included in the process of deciding how to safely re-open. Every single pastor I have met has said that the safety of his or her congregation is of utmost importance. Lowes, liquor stores, and pot shops have respectfully been given the responsibility to implement various social distancing and safety measures. As “large group gatherings” of hundreds of shoppers select flowers, shrubbery and all manner of home improvement projects, the Church should be able to craft various measures to go forward with responsible in-person gatherings if they choose, especially in areas that have few cases of COVID-19.