On Monday, President Trump recommended limiting gatherings to fewer than ten people in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. This follows many states, counties, and cities banning gatherings first of more than 2,500 people, then 500, then 250. In the last few days, some areas have limited gatherings to fewer than 50 or even fewer than 10.
Social distancing is important to protecting public health and avoiding strain on hospitals and health-care providers. However, for millions of religious Americans, there are some things more important than physical health.
Many churches have canceled services or switched to livestream to protect their congregations from COVID-19. But for many, a virtual service just doesn’t cut it, because it means going without Holy Communion. Some denominations do not see this sacrament as a necessity, but others see it as essential to their spiritual health.
Christianity teaches that our spiritual and eternal well-being is more important than our physical, temporal well-being. If we have to choose between risking a temporary physical illness and potentially harming our spiritual, eternal health, we are going to choose the latter. Thus, going without communion to avoid contagion is a non-starter for many Christians in the United States and throughout the world.
That doesn’t mean we should ignore our physical health. We do need to limit or prevent community spread, and that means changing the way we normally do things. But what if we don’t have to cancel services to practice social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19? There are some simple, practical things churches can do to have services in person while reducing risks to parishioners.