I like doing good worship. When the service flows well with music, story, readings, prayers, and sermons all enhancing one another, I think worship can really speak to people. Like most worship leaders, I am sure that many of services miss the mark, but with grace, a few hit the mark. Such is the life of a preacher.
I am always amazed at people who give of their time to go to worship. In previous generations, one was strange if you didn't go to worship. Now you are unique if you do go to worship. I know many people who are spiritual and not religious. I know many wonderful people who live upright lives who have never been inside a church. While I wish more people might try us out for a Sunday, I understand that people have valid reasons for not going to church and I respect that.
Not all ministers are like that. Take Pastor Tony Spell, a pastor with a large evangelical congregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Louisiana has had as of today over 17,000 cases of COVID- the fourth most in the United States. Churches were ordered to be closed after the March 22nd service. Pastor Spell defied that ban and was charged and faces time in jail for conducting services on March 29th. He refused to obey these orders. For the April 5th service, he ordered 26 coaches to bring worshippers to his service. He refused to close, refused to use online broadcasting tools to allow worshippers to worship from the safety of their own homes. He said the order to close churches was tyranny, and it was a violation of his right to free speech. As to the fate of his worshippers, Pastor Spell said that they would be honoured to die for their faith.
It is so wrong. As a minister, one thing that is expected of me is that I care for the well being of my parishoners. I am to offer pastoral care for the sick. I am to provide emotional support when they are grieving. I am to celebrate with them when they laugh. No where does it say that I am supposed to take attendance. No where does it say that I should only care about those who turn up on Sunday. We are also strongly discouraged from placing congregants in harms way. We are called to care for people both spiritually and physically.
Pastor Spell is living in a small state with a huge outbreak of COVID 19. If he truly valued the lives of his congregation, he should discover new ways that he can share his good news with others- via print, via Zoom or YouTube. Worship at home is not the same. However, when it is a matter of life and death, there is no other choice. Worship is not about my ego. It is not about Pastor Spell's ego. Worship should be life giving and life affirming. It should not be mandatory or life threatening. Blessings.