COVID-19 and hand shaking at church
BY DR. GLENN MOLLETTE
In the old days, church pastors frowned on their church members staying home to watch television preachers Rex Humbard, Jerry Falwell or Robert Schuller. The sick and the very elderly were typically pardoned but that was as far as grace was extended. The vast majority of churches across the land did not televise their services or broadcast church on the radio. Traditionally churches have preferred keeping their flock coming to the “house of God.”
Essentially most churches haven’t changed their philosophy. Congregations have always enjoyed “gathering” to sing, hear sermons, eat meals together and importantly — shake hands.
Media ministry in the old days was usually reserved for the large and affluent churches that could afford to buy television time or at least radio air time. Television broadcasting has always been expensive and so very few churches have been able to televise their services. A few more churches through the years have been able to afford radio time.
I remember one of my old-time preacher friends shaming his congregation one Sunday. He said, “One reason you people should not sit home and watch church on your television is because you can’t shake hands with your television.”
The church has always placed a lot of emphasis on “togetherness, shaking hands, hugging and embracing others.” Now, no one wants to shake hands and embrace each other. Because of COVID-19 people are trying to stay six feet apart. Furthermore, almost every minister and congregation in the country has the ability to broadcast his or her service via the Internet or Facebook. Media ministry now is available to almost everyone. Ministers now want people to tune in on Facebook or whatever media they are using. Ministers still prefer that people attend church, but if they are the “ones” being watched then it’s fine.
It’s ironic how things change. What used to be kind of taboo for some churches is widely embraced now. One of the reasons is because it’s so available. It’s also affordable. People have computers and cell phones. People are on Facebook or have some other Internet accessibility. Radio airtime is more affordable in many areas. Things and times change. Plus, we’ve never been hit by anything like this pandemic where people are being told to stay home and that church is off limits. Whoever thought that church attendance might be ordered by the governor to be off limits?
Many houses of worship began building their websites years ago so that members could do their giving online. This is a good thing especially if people are already in the habit of donating this way. Churches who do not gather typically never recoup their giving. Some faithful members will catch up on charitable giving but most will not. Churches along with everyone will suffer during this pandemic.
Houses of faith will survive during this virus crisis but life will change for most congregations. Many will be excited to get back to the church pew and shaking hands when they can. Or, they may conclude they don’t need to shake hands anymore.
(Author Glenn Mollette writes on mostly conservative and rural issues. He is the author of 12 books, and his syndicated column is read in all 50 states.)
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