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Opinion: Churches shouldn't close because of COVID-19
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Editor’s note: The state has banned gatherings of more than 10 unless people can maintain 6 feet of social distance. This rules applies to churches. This letter was submitted before that decision was made.

Churches shouldn’t close because of COVID-19

I have been attending St. Paul United Methodist Church for 15 years. I sing in the choir and teach Sunday school. As a matter of fact I’ve been going to church for over 70 years, and this is the first day in my life I’m ashamed to be a Methodist, or even a church-goer for that matter. 

Our pastor informed us by email that church will be closed. Why? Fear. Or I should more accurately say, panic! Our bishop is concerned someone may get the coronavirus. 

After coming unglued, I checked around and I could hardly believe it, all the churches are closing. OK, we have finally lost our minds! What message does this send our children? When the chips are down, one thing you know, you cannot count on your church!

I was in Walmart this morning and I wondered, why is Walmart willing to stay open and serve the needs of people and churches are not? A young African American was slicing open boxes and handing out toilet paper to all those in line. I thought, if only our pastor had that kind of courage or maybe the bishop? Am I the only one to remember 9/11? We were all afraid. We didn’t know where the next attack would come from. Churches were being bombed and burned, but did we stay home? No, almost everyone in America, even some atheists, went to church. The pews were full. Churches instinctively knew, we have to calm the fears of public. This is America! In God we trust. 

According to the CDC, in 2009 over 60 million Americans were infected with the H1N1pdm09 pandemic, familiarly known as swine flu. Some 274,304 were hospitalized and 12,469 were killed, mostly children and young people. Then, 85% of deaths were under the age of 65. How horrible! Did churches close? No. It was hardly in the news.

Check the CDC website. Coronavirus is not transmitted by air, unless someone directly coughs or sneezes on you. Face masks are useless. But the virus can live up to a week on some surfaces. You can get it by touching an infected surface, then touching your face, nose or mouth. It’s not that hard to protect yourself with a little knowledge and care.

I expect the coronavirus is going to get really bad before it is checked this summer by global warming. Thousands will die and millions will be infected, no doubt. Old people like me are the most vulnerable. 

But what are the churches going to do then? Closing churches because of a virus is like closing churches because of traffic accidents. Some 39,000 Americans died last year in car crashes. I wonder how many were on their way to worship. 

Steve Ward