Disclaimer: I’m old and vulnerable to the virus.
Having said that let me remind you that how and when you open your church to the “new normal” has potentially deadly ramifications for people inside and outside your congregation.
Your lungs, and mine, host billions of bacteria and occasionally thousands of virus cells. Social distance and normal breathing pose no threat. Speak without a mask and the number of cells you emit multiplies by ten. Yell, or sing and that figure multipies by 50.
Unless you do church right, you could end up killing people like me.
Sure, I’m staying home for the duration, but I still interact with people. As does everyone in your fellowship. And those people interact with still more which is why I’m writing this.
We know that crowded spaces and people ignoring masks or social distance will spread the disease. The spread is exponential. It works this way… The average carrier, with or without symptoms, infects 3 people (as opposed to the flu where the number infected by each carrier is just 1.3 persons—besides which I can get a flu shot). The rate of 1 person infecting 3 grows exponentially. Ten generations away from the origin, 59,000 people get infected. This is why the numbers keep climbing even while many remained in their homes under lockdown.
Pity the poor folks working hard at Home Depot, McDonalds or the supermarket as much as those in hospitals. All are in danger. But back to church…
Five Problems Staring You in the Face when You Reopen
Churches have five problems, each which can be mitigated but you need to handle with care. One friend told me he’s disinfecting microphones between services. Another said she’s wearing a mask to work in her church nursery. Still another will offer disinfectant wipes at the door. But is any of that enough?
We face these issues: 1. A church is a concentrated gathering of people—social distanced seating is fine, but what about constricting areas like the exits and bathrooms. 2. Church people naturally shake hands, hug or otherwise touch each other when greeting. 3. We like to sing which works against us in two ways. We’re projecting (50x the breathing rate) and breathing deeply to prepare for the next line of the song. 4. We talk to each other face-to-face. All of these are factors to consider whenever you open your doors. 5. Social distancing and masks are next to impossible in your nursery and with small children.
Multiple weekend services with more space between folks is a great start but certainly not enough.
Don’t Let It be You
Were I still a pastor, I’d closely watch the outfall of restaurant re-openings across the country before making any move. Temperature scanners, disinfectants, plastic-wrapped utensils and face masks on staff are great. But, what about friends sitting two feet across from each other talking and laughing? Aren’t they a threat the restaurant isn’t set up to handle?
I’m adding two links to help you think this through. The first is an article and short video about a steak house in Brooklyn. They’ve done a lot right, including plexiglass screens between tables, but I wonder if plexiglass on the table might be an added benefit. You watch and draw your own conclusions. The second takes you to a blog by a scientist, named Erin Bromage, who really understands what is safe (far more than you think) and what is unsafe (kind of scary) and what we can do to be safer and protect our people.
Last week I read of a Catholic priest, in Texas, who held Easter services without knowing he had the virus. He’s since died but of the 180 people in attendance, six caught the virus (at the time the article was written). Now multiply that 50 times and you have a problem. I’d not want to lead a church where people got sick, a couple of our elders died and the newspaper identified us as a center for an outbreak—let alone any lawsuits. These things will happen to some churches somewhere. Just don’t let them happen to you!
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