"Berwick St. Joseph's Catholic Church" by Pete unseth / CC BY-SA 4.0

Just because the economy is reopening doesn’t mean churches should

May 4, 2020

By Jamie Aten and Kent Annan

Some states are beginning to lift COVID-19 restrictions, like releasing residents from stay-at-home orders, reopening retail and hospitality businesses with limited capacities, and even allowing elective surgeries.

Research has shown that many people are struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness. People are longing to get back to life as “normal” after weeks of physically distancing and staying at home.

At the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, we’ve spent 15 years studying and ministering in mass disasters around the globe, including public health crises like the Ebola outbreak. Our research shows that in most situations, churches can help their congregations and communities best by getting back to what they were doing before the calamity, especially in-person worship gatherings.

But just because the economy is reopening doesn’t mean your church should automatically return to pre-COVID-19 gathering norms yet. Even in the lowest impacted regions, the administration has recommended a staged approach. Churches that rush to prematurely reopen their doors will do more harm than help. As churches around the country are feeling pressure to rush decisions about how to best reopen we want to remind us that the church never actually closed — just the doors to our buildings closed.

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