One day after successfully holding services at Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, defying draconian restrictions imposed upon churches in Illinois… I’m sad!
I was not (yet) arrested, the services were not disturbed and everything went according to a detailed and sound plan to protect our people, but at the same time giving them, at least in part, the worship experience they were denied for the last two months.
And yet my heart is heavy this (very, very early) morning!
This is not because the Governor is not relenting and not because the local elected officials are threatening to… talk to me (in Communist Romania this was a sinister way to imply something else)…
”If you are a religious leader, please don’t do this,” Rodriguez said in a Facebook post Sunday night. “I just had to speak with another Pastor in the ward to stop services and follow the Stay at Home ordinance. I will be contacting this Pastor and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
(TRIBUNA.US NOTE: This was the message of Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, alderwoman in the City of Chicago Council, member of the Democratic Socialists of America political party, text published by a progressive leftist blog.)
I am sad because I’m stunned by the attitude of pastors and Christians in this State! Tacit and winking appreciation and agreement doesn’t encourage me and doesn’t help you!
My dear colleagues and fellow believers, let me put it strait, maybe you didn’t understand or maybe you didn’t want to understand: we’re under a capital punishment order, a death sentence!
You keep your church shut down for a year or more, your church will die!
Your building might be there, at least for awhile, but a lot of people might not return!
The flattening curve they are talking about is not just the pandemic going down, but also the heart rate of our churches!
I’ve done my homework, I know what I’m talking about!
You think holding services with 10, maybe 50 people will take care of the problem? Think again!
If your church is small, it means it’s going to be even smaller, plus it has no room to grow! You’re dead!
If your church is medium or large, you already know that just the idea of putting 10 or 50 people in the sanctuary and call it a public service is a mockery!
After the last two months of suspending our church services, the restoration is going to be a long process anyway!
People are timid, confused and reticent. Some have gotten used to the online experience. It’s not as real but it’s more convenient…
They have no clue that when everybody will embrace that church style there’s not going to be a real church behind that screen but a video game church.
How selfish and disingenuous of them to think other people should go and participate in creating their remote worship experience!
So let me get back to what I’m saying: we’ve been sentenced to death!
Not by a firing squad, not by lethal injection and certainly not in the electric chair.
It is more sinister. It is not by closing down the church, it is by keeping people away from it and from each other!
But what about the danger of contamination?
With some common sense restrictive measures, thoroughly sanitizing the facilities, providing masks, gloves and disinfectant dispensers, putting some distance between participants, we can be as efficient as the food supermarkets or the hardware stores.
Last Sunday, Elim Church has provided a model for other churches but also for the government officials to look at and consider it!
They look to the medical professionals and economists for guidance on how to reopen the economy?
It’s time for them to consult with us on how to reopen church public services, not sending down absurd decrees that show ignorance and indifference!
I for one will not accept to be placed in the same category with stadiums, cinemas, entertainment venues and bars!
We’re not providing entertainment, we’re providing vital services!
And please, have the decency to put the word “churches” into your recovery schemes, don’t bunch us into the “public gatherings”!
If the food store is essential for providing food for the physical body, spiritual food is at least as important; buying building materials and home goods also has a spiritual dimension, for the church is a spiritual construction that needs to be built and maintained!
The politicians need to stop pretending they care about our people more than we do!
If they want to work with us, fine! If not, we’re going at it alone!
And, for the full of wisdom ministers who don’t want to be rushing into a… quick and premature reopening, one more year of this sounds good to you?
How about much, much longer? They say it will take more than a year to find a vaccine (which for many of our members will be another delicate issue altogether), and quite a few months until everybody is supposedly safe.
But let’s forget about all this! What about the principle!
I immigrated in 1987 from a country where the Government could close down and even demolish churches at will!
They didn’t even need a cover story! In the end they lost!
You know why? Because a few pastors stood up to the tyranny and people followed them!
It was risky and sometimes fatal and it was uncomfortable for their families and their churches!
But it was their duty!
In Romania, we knew our rights were a few letters on a piece of paper called constitution. It was just a gimmick!
Here in the United States the Constitution still counts for something! Well, let’s make it count, lest it will become just a piece of paper!
Pastor Cristian Ionescu
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, Chicago
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