Dr John Mohan Razu
Coronavirus is the worst pandemic that hit the world in multidimensional facet and so is a multilayered and thus affects everyone in multiple ways. The impacts COVID-19 is causing and inflicting across the layers of society in different sectors have changed and going to change further in many ways. Many did undermine the consequential impact and have now started to accept its deadly power to inflict death and the ability to contaminate millions of people.
COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many human activities to opt for changes. One such drastic change coronavirus introduced concerns faith of the believers who congregate for the Sunday worship services and other important functions that fall in the Christian calendar that the church observes. COVID-19 has changed the regular Sunday services and other important events that falls within the Christian calendar in the last two months.
Due to the changing scenario, physical connectivity within the ecclesia has totally been snapped off and now it is only on-line proximity. Congregation members are strictly forbidden to assemble in the churches and so the global church went on-line. Countries of the world enforced strict physical distancing which applies even to worshipping in the churches as well. 2020 will be different and certainly the Holy Week more importantly Easter a rarity.
However, those ultra-evangelical and far-right conservative Christians believe that no virus can touch and inflict any harm because God is with them. Since God in Christ is foundation and corner stone of ecclesia the church should keep the doors open despite lockdown. Stay @ home during Holy Week has consistently been flashing which reminds many that church doors have not been locked in the living memory of Christians over centuries. However, church doors are shut, which is a living reality.
In some counties such as Houston in the United States of America the churches have been exempted on the grounds of religious freedom. Invoking the Constitution that guarantees personal religious freedom by citing and interpreting biblical passages that “Jesus is the Word and the Word says that we should come together and the ecclesia is the meeting point for the hearers of the Word”. During the Holy Week some of the churches like Houston have not been shut and its doors remain open; whereas many churches shut its doors.
However, never in the living memory doors of the global church have been shut. Undoubtedly coronavirus has taken the global humanity by surprise particularly those that represent religion—religious institutions and agencies to a new normal. Undoubtedly COVID-19 has unfolded new challenges, new equations and new question such as: Is God in Jesus Christ present only when the faithful worship in the church?
This is one of the intriguing faith questions ever raised in human memory. In a world of global pandemic: Should the faithful adherents/congregations amidst deadly pandemic follow the instructions of the Government by going to the church physically or should they abstain from physical appearance by not going and yet be part of on-line mode.
Church is an agency of God that brings the faithful within its fold on Sundays and other important commemorative events together before the presence of God by participating in the liturgy and Holy Communion as believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In the wake of deadly pandemic that prohibits people coming together and thus advocates social distancing has taken us to another level—on line worship.
Online has become a new normal of the day. An intriguing postulate that emerges from some that God is present only in the church and absent outside church substantiating that God’s Word revealed in Jesus Christ and so the Word should only be proclaimed and heard within the church along with other faith affirmations. Understanding of this sort is reductionist, but is widely prevalent amongst those who tend to reduce the veracity of God and the notion of ecclesia.
We live in turbulent times. Life has become precarious and so the faithful seek God’s intervention in times of peril. Word of God continues to illumine light and hope wherever we are. Let us not constrict God to our space and times because God is present everywhere. This time death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be heard in new ways.