Shutting down in-person worship during the current rise in COVID-19 cases was described as “an act of Christian charity” by a Langley pastor who posted an essay online that asks “are worship services an essential service?”
They are, but they don’t need to be in-person, concluded Brad Sumner, pastor of the Jericho Ridge Community Church, located on the Langley-Surrey border.
While digital church services are not ideal, Sumner said, they still allow a sense of community to be maintained.
Sumner said Jericho Ridge moved almost everything “to phone calls or computer screens” in response to the provincial order restricting church assemblies issued on Nov. 10.
— Jericho Ridge (@jerichoridge) November 20, 2020
That includes youth contact work, prayer meetings, care for the vulnerable, benevolence work, staff and leadership meetings and a congregation-wide AGM.
“Is digital ministry optimal?” Sumner wrote.
“Nope. Is this most recent order ‘religious persecution?’ Probably not, when set alongside the experience of many in church history or the plight of the persecuted church around the globe today.”
Sumner stressed his comments were not meant as a swipe at the churches that have defied the order, like the Riverside Calvary church in Langley.
“Here at Jericho, we choose not to malign or marginalize those who interpret Scripture differently than us and who consider the current closure of churches unnecessary or unhelpful,” Sumner said.
“At the same time, if as people of faith we need to close our buildings for a season of time or not ride a party bus or not rent an AirBnB or not visit grandparents on the Island this Christmas, we choose not to believe that this is because the government has a current or future sinister plan to de-seat religion from its place in the fabric of the communities we live, work and worship in.”
He views the order suspending in-person religious gatherings was written as “preventative,” not punitive in nature, adding the church chose to comply with the order “out of respect for the sphere of authority (public health) that has been entrusted to the government. “
“I hate it that we can’t gather,” Sumner went on to say.
“Yet I feel that choosing to keep our doors closed for a few Sundays out of our 15-year existence as a congregation is an act of Christian charity undertaken for the sole purpose of advancing the common good.”
He added the “Spirit of God didn’t seem to be overly enamoured that buildings and gatherings be considered essential that first Christmas, and so perhaps we could un-enamour ourselves with them again for a time in this season.”