It takes a lot of training to become clergy. A goal is to eliminate all unnecessary exposure to risk of Covid-19 contagion: not eliminate Covid contagion nor rely on any powers outside of our control (consider the left hand and the right hand sin as suggested previously by Martin Luther). Every time we expose ourselves or induce exposure of another unduly to the risk of Covid, we fail. What a wonderful opportunity for clergy to learn new habits induced by these new constraints in the context of the necessities of religion itself. In again learning, clergy can also teach learning itself. I fully expect wonderful lessons to be learned and probably forgotten from this pandemic for all. Let's do what we can whilst we are here.
French churches have a horrible freedom to discern what is right. What is our intention? Ministry serve intention and not habit. Habit serves ministry, even in Covid, but habits may need tuning. Like old habits, new habits must be learned and integrated such that they become muscle memory in intention and in demonstration. In the present moment, we always consider ourselves correct, including in our esteem about how we would have been wrong previously. Practice, practice, practice until the intention of avoidance of undue risk to potential exposure to Covid 19 is eliminated.
When clergy don robes, there is also a mic-check. In lighting the candles, we verify that the wifi is strong, or the wired network is working. In preparing the sermon, we check the exposure relative to the face of the pastor and insure that there is enough frontal light. When the clergy smile, it is a true smile, with eyes. Only a smile with eyes can be assuredly true. We welcome congregants from another space, from another time who may watch from their homes days after a recording. The service is for those physically in the space at that time, and those who may be in different spaces or times. That mask should not be removed for whatever reason. A face is ultimately a form of vanity. Be ninja clergy. We may already be in the time of Christ and not know it ^12.
Children will define rules in schoolyard games. The rules become as arbitrary as human imagination. Covid is not human. Covid obeys divine laws of nature as should we. The American Church declared not having the benefit of science to keep its doors open. Furthermore, the Senior Pastor Odette Lockwood-Stewart declared that science was not in favor of opening the services this Easter 2021, as was sadly the case at Easter 2020. We can think we define rules that are appropriate. We think these rules work until proven otherwise. If we are proven incorrect, it would be too late anyway. We must figure out for ourselves what is right ^13.
What you show outwardly should be the perfect expression of what you do inwardly. The video camera is not only to enhance "role-playing" (also known as hypocrisy in Scripture). The video camera and the face-to-face meeting are there to reveal your practiced expression of intention: intention to avoid all undue exposure to the risk of potential Covid contagion: graceful reverence.
Ask the right question of self and other congregants by testing for the disease as appropriate. Do not assume. Seek actively in the congregation for cases of Covid. No unasked question will be answered. Ask. Ask in a statistical sense. Request and follow-up with self and with physically congregating persons if and when they have tested, and, if so, it was positive or negative. The absence of answers could perhaps be understood, but not the absence of questions. Only questions churches may ask will have a chance to be answered. That is why we pray.
At the time of my writing, the only comparable situation I see is with schools. When classes have one positive case, they close, today ^14. Two factors intervene here.
Students are automatically contact cases, whereas brief services may have involve exposure.
Students are not at risk in the same way that many congregants are at-risk.
Schools arrange for the testing of pupils for Covid on a regular basis. Congregants may be inclined to keep a Covid-positive diagnosis to themselves or not seek a diagnosis at all. In this, we can yet again turn to Martin Luther for enlightenment.
Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another's death. "Whoever loves danger," says the wise man, "will perish by it" \[Ecclus. 3:26 [^15](../endnotes/en.md#15)\]. If the people in a city were to show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbor's need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate.
By the very proposition of canceling services, it implies we have had the opportunity to hold services in the first place! Praise the Lord and give Them singularthey Their opportunity. Give us our opportunity.
A place of worship's credibility is put to the test in this Covid-time. Any tendency to hide in the past, any lee-way allowing for error, may now present opportunity for undue exposure to the potential of Covid contagion. The virtual-and-physical preparation, as the spiritual preparation, is to allow the service to be of the same integrity as it is inherently. The importance of Covid requires trust not in the institution as it should be, but rather in the institution as it is. There is always time for betterment.