The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a formal recommendation that public gatherings be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks. For organizations that serve high-risk populations, the threshold is 10 people, though most churches aren’t even doing that. Easter worship (April 12) as we’ve known it is doomed. Early on, many pastors probably presumed that preaching to cameras rather than congregations wasn’t going to encompass a whole season.
Events are moving quickly from bad to worse. No doubt pastors worry that two months of canceled worship services will provide the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back of congregational decline. For years we preachers told our congregations how “coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian” (usually followed by the tread-bare analogy about how being in a garage doesn’t make you a car). We never really meant to be taken seriously. Fewer and fewer adults already report attending church in America. What’s going to happen when this last remnant gets used to spending Sundays at home? Like everything in this anxious moment, it’s too soon to tell.
The first Easter found the most faithful huddled away from their congregations, hiding out with a different fear. Instead of a pandemic, the disciples were afraid of the religious and political authorities who’d crucified Jesus and were likely coming after them too. Perhaps they also feared Jesus. After all, they’d sworn never to deny or disown him, but when everything went south, they’d scrambled and fled, leaving a small group of women to keep the faith afloat. And now Jesus was loose! The disciples’ socially-distant hideout proved a bad ...1
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