Monday 16 November 2020

Spreading the Word, Spreading the Plague

A church in Islington has been closed by police after it attempted to hold a service despite Covid regulations. The pastor, Regan King, has argued that, although he is breaking the law, he is not a law breaker. Which, if nothing else, makes me wary about the logic he may employ in sermons.

I understand why churches argue their services are necessary. Our spiritual needs are very deep. In our different ways, we crave meaning. Many of us find that through religious acts. Some through acts of charity - Regan King's church has been very generous in feeding people through this crisis, so we can commend them for that.

Jesus said, "when two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst". Two or three is a number than can be easily achieved in a household bubble, or in a (legal) meeting of two people in the park. You don't need 30 people in a building. And you certainly don't need to argue 15 of them are "assisting with the service" in your "pushing the guidelines to their absolute max". 

I mean, firstly this is about the law. We have a duty to obey laws - even ones that stop us doing what we like. Unjust laws we can debate. But this church isn't bravely worshipping despite persecution - as otherwise we'd have to assume the government is also persecuting pubs, fashion retailers and nail bars. 

It's about love. You show love by feeding the homeless. Yes, you do it by meeting their spiritual needs. But you also do it by not gathering a group of people into one place during a pandemic, increasing the chances of someone passing on the disease. And thereby increasing the chances of someone outside the gathering catching it next week - an elderly relative, a homeless person you were supposed to be serving, a patient in hospital. And since it spreads virally - and since many carriers have no symptoms - somebody can be dying in your local hospital, four weeks after you held a service that you thought had no consequences.

The pastor says they were keeping to social distancing. Well, social distancing is a mitigation, not a prevention. It says that if we all follow the rules, we reduce the amount we spread. Masks only reduce transmission, and the virus has no concept that it needs to stop travelling when it reaches 2 metres from your nose. Every time we socialise, at whatever distance, we increase the chances of spreading the disease.

And the comparison with supermarkets is a terrible one. We cannot live on bread alone, sure. But we can only go a couple of weeks without it. And in an epidemic as winter approaches, we need all the good nutrition we can get. If we closed all the supermarkets, Regan King's not getting much of a congregation for the foreseeable future. We can wait to meet in buildings. It's hard - it's an exile - but it's doable.

In conclusion I think this church did what it did with all the right motivation, for all the wrong reasons. If love is what we are called to do, then let's love each other by keeping each other safe. Feed the hungy, give comfort to the lonely, and avoid spreading deadly, infectious diseases. What would Jesus do? Teach by example, and mostly out of doors. 

Please support this blog


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl