Covid 19 & The Communion of Saints

I and the church I belong to are complying with the government’s request that non-essential gatherings discontinue until the end of March, but it has me wondering at what point I should perhaps not continue to comply. I say this because I was a bit alarmed at how readily church gatherings were placed in the non-essential category. I get that I am wading into contested ecclesiological waters (belief about the nature of the church), but there are a number of us who have been living in the tension between the call to obey the authorities, and the call to not forsake the gathering of the brethren. When push comes to shove, I know I must obey God rather than men, but it’s not always clear when the civil authorities are placing Christians in a dichotomy where they have to choose.

Before continuing to develop this tension, I want to clarify that I believe our leaders should be respected, and it should be acknowledged that they are making hard decisions. Along with this, the call from leadership to restrict large gatherings, due to the threat of Covid 19, aligns with the biblical call to love our neighbors, which complicates the tension. But, having made these qualifications, I want to express my concern because gathering for worship is not merely a community event of people who happen to have the same religious beliefs. It is a metaphysical moment when the Body of Christ is made corporate at the local level, because it is the gracious encounter wherein the people of God are renewed and reconstituted through hearing God’s word publicly read, hearing the Word preached, and receiving the body and blood of Christ through Communion. As far as I understand, according to the Scriptures and the Tradition of Faith, gathering for worship is an essential part of Christian existence, and failure to do so, particularly in an ongoing sustained manner, is a practical capitulation to Gnosticism (a belief in the insignificance of matter, and corporate realities) which is a belief the church fought hard against in its early years, and this matters because Gnosticism denies the very essence of Christian faith (God fully becoming human, the significance of Jesus bodily offering himself on the cross, the significance of the resurrection). Connecting all this to ecclesiology, a people scattered, even if connected via media platforms, does not proclaim in word and deed that the resurrected Christ is Lord.

Leave a Reply