Musing 11.20.20

In late May, Colleen and I starred in an in-house video concerning re-opening King Avenue for in-person worship beginning June 14. This was an attempt to prepare persons for what to expect. We covered masks, sanitization, and social distancing. We addressed how to enter and exit the building, and how critical ushers and greeters would be. We prepared worshipers for the changes in worship such is the lack of a choir and the hymn singing “softly to yourself.” The video stressed that in-person worship should be seen as an option to online worship and that the kind of worship one attended was not indicative of any spiritual superiority.

We emphasized two final issues. One, to quote directly, “The spirit of worship will not change one bit. God is good all the time. We are still a community--whether in-person or online--called by God’s reconciling grace to trust, worship, and serve. God’s creative power, love, and mercy will join our worship and fill our hearts. We will praise, pray, listen to the scriptures, and we’ll even get to greet and bless one another.” And two, “[on-person worship is] actually an opportunity for our congregation to model a safe and respectful way for people to come together in public.”

This past Wednesday our staff met at length to discuss whether or not King Avenue should continue to worship in-person. The causes of the discussion were the statements of curfew by Governor DeWine and the joint advisory by the health commissioners for Columbus and Franklin County. It was a healthy and respectful dialog. A variety of opinions and concerns were voiced. I was proud of our collegiality and I believe you would have been also. In the end we made decisions. One, we would remain open for in-person worship at both 9 and 11am. Two, we would limit singing to only the worship leaders. Three, we would suspend in-person worship if the county went purple.

The Franklin County went purple so we shall suspend in-person worship effective this Sunday, November 22, until further notice. I want, however, to write about the first point, the decision to stay open before we went purple. Why would we do that in light of what our civic leaders were advising and that other churches had already ceased or were intending to cease in-person worship? It was because you had acted so safely and respectfully. You have truly modeled how to worship in-person and online. Sunday after Sunday worshipers have masked, distanced, sanitized, and cared for each other. You have faithfully followed every precaution and made King Avenue a safe place to be and to worship. You have shown other institutions how to behave and respect their neighbor in public. You modeled what we talked about in May.

We know how this has been a time in our country to ignore safe behavior and flaunt individual rights. It is also a time of binary thinking. Any issue is immediately politicized. If one is not with us, they are against us. If one is not red, they must be blue. If one is not blue, they must red. The party line must be toed. There is no middle or other ground. We were aware that, by choosing to remain open, some would push us into a camp most of us were not part of. We felt it was healthy to resist this politicized, binary thinking of facilely labeling ourselves and our neighbor. We wanted to model not only behavior but also thinking which transcended pigeonholing. Such thinking shows independence and a willingness to see a third way of reconciliation. That is a witness needed in our country. Our division cannot be overcome until the politicized, binary thinking is overcome.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the model of behavior which demonstrates your concern for neighbor. I am also thankful for the faithful vision of a Christ-centered third way which transcends factions and offers hope of unity. It is a different plane. Christ’s way calls us out of binary thinking to a liberated, new way of seeing and behaving. Christ offers an option which is other than the two which are presented us. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female [there is neither gay nor straight, there is neither red nor blue] for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Stay safe and well!