• Aisling Salisbury

Places of Worship Should Be No Different

Updated: Feb 16

As expected the 'Rona' is starting to rear it's ugly head in the populated centres of the world yet again. I guess it would be hardly surprising as viral infections do have a tendency to want to spike in Colder climates. Fortunately, it appears that once again the majority of cases are mild. Two of my colleagues are currently inflicted with it as I write this. Both are on the tail-end of the infection and through home care have, by all intense purposes, beaten it. So much so, that assuming the tests are all clear, they will probably be back at work within the next week and a bit. The worse thing about it for these two was simply the fatigue and inability to want to stay awake.


Nevertheless, I get it. Let's do our best to stop the spread. The more people who get sick the more pressure on health services and the lack of productivity as people are cooped up at home and not at work. Have I converted? Nope. We should be reopening the economy and business because as I have previously posted it's about the awareness of the illness. Something we didn't understand or believe at the start of this. Yet once again many Governments are going for Round 2 of lockdowns and destruction of people's livelihoods in the same "one size fits all approach" they had in February/March 2020.


If we are having to go back to lockdowns, then it is clear that Governments aren't our savours. They are instead hindering us. Viral infections love the colder climates, always have. Not many people get a cold or flu in summer. If they do it's either because they had a flu shot in preparation, have travelled or just had a weakened immune system. Regardless, those that get sick in summer generally don't have it as severe in the warmer climate compared to the colder periods of the year. Therefore why was it that during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere were Governments not prepping Health Services for the winter months? Instead, the focus was still entirely on "flatting the curve" or attempts at elimination. No doubt, it's an approach that is comparable to an "all eggs in the one basket". Instead, we are now told that our Health facilities can't cope and the caseloads are skyrocketing so everyone "back into hibernation". With this comes rules that are inconsistent.


In recent weeks the US Supreme Court blocked the state of New York's restrictions on Places of Worship. Before we go anywhere further I apologise for the influx of 'Father Ted' and 'Dave Allen' references in your near future. Growing up these two (also the 'Life of Brian') shaped my views on religion. Because of that, it's probably why I'm not overly religious but more of an agnostic. Or as Michael Flaherty in 'Spin City' put it:

"I hope to find religion myself one day, you know, when I'm older and looking to cut a deal."

Religion is now nowhere near the levels of commitment that as a society we may have adhered to once. However, for me, it was quite shocking to see the plethora of attacks on Social Media when it came to the Supreme Court's ruling. Well, this is the thing that I will say. Why should Places of Worship not be considered essential, even at this time?


If a liquor store can remain open, why can't a church?


If a major department store can remain open, why can't a synagogue?


If restaurants can be open in some form, why can't a mosque?


Effectively, why are some things considered essential and others are not? It's the double standards and lack of logic in decisions being passed by Governments that is the reason why people are getting upset. As an Australian, we love a drink so yeah I get how liquor stores can be considered "Essential" and glad the rest of the world does too. When it comes to stores and other business we usually, especially now, go in, grab our stuff and go.

As for Places of Worship, I get it! Religious establishments are a lot more social. Places of Worship involve certain elements of physical touch.


Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.

Obviously, I'm looking at all this from a Christian perspective as I am not familiar with other faiths. However, I would imagine many similarities when it comes to religious ceremonies.


In Christianity, there are certain things that could spread an infection to the parishioners such as the 'sharing of the peace' that involves shaking hands or hugging. At a bare minimum the physical touch of others, especially complete strangers during this time. The 'Communion' involves placing the body of Christ and the blood of christ in your mouth. Simply the priest would just wipe the chalice with the same cloth over and over. As I say, I would imagine other faiths share the same principles in some form, in that there is a lot of physical connections with others during services.


This is the thing though if businesses have adapted to live in this COVID world, then surely religion shouldn't be any different? I remember at school during services you could go up for Communion and if you did not wish to receive the host then the priest would simply give you a blessing instead. Couldn't you do this with social distancing? The 'sharing of the peace', could surely be done with an elbow bump now? Or simply a nod of the head to someone on the other side of the church. I'm fairly confident that the Heads of Churches could adopt processes to be "COVID safe". If they are afraid of offending the Lord then I'm pretty confident he would understand that standard practises can't be done at this time.

Places of Worship should be given no special treatment but without a doubt should be able to continue to operate in a specific fashion. We could even go to square foot ruling to the number of worshipers able to attend a service. You could book a time you wish to attend. If it's "oversold" well surely the Priest can do an encore?

If anything Places of Worship could be operated in a far safer way right now compared to your local supermarket could it not? You know which worshipers were there and on what days. Places of Worship are generally extremely large buildings with heaps of natural light and high ceilings. Surely people could socially space out? Yet the decision by many Governments was to just "shut it down". This is why people were questioning decisions like this. At least when it came to Funerals and the restriction of mourners the reason was given. In that, Funerals are of high social connections and they saw the risk as too much to have large numbers. But with a Chruch service, it's just a flat out no or a venue that could accommodate hundreds to thousands can only have 20 people?

Religion provides comfort to a lot of people, especially in tough times and right now times are tough for a lot of people. To close off these places sends a wrong message and for many devout folk, it is clearly seen as an attack on their faith. When you have a country like the United States that has this protected in their Constitution and local authorities ban religious services it just adds further fuel to the fire. No Place of Worship should have a massive restriction placed on them, but as I say base the number of worshipers on the square footage of the building or percentage of the building's capacity.


As I say there are safe ways to conduct religious services. Everyone else has adapted to new ways of life and I'm sure religious folk and establishments can too. So if your local business, bottle shop and the supermarket can operate with next to no restrictions, then let religion do so too. Now in the famous words of Dave Allen:

"Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you."

Ash


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