Norris Burkes

These days, I’m opening scores of emails from companies announcing their new COVID-19 policy. Grocery stores tell me they are disinfecting carts. Car rental companies proclaim their vehicles safe to rent and schools promise to operate online.

They are all good policies, but the pandemic plan I prefer to follow is: “Let’s Thrive, Not Just Survive.”

If it sounds familiar, you probably know that I self-plagiarized the policy from the book I wrote in 2015 called, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.”

I began summarizing the strategy last month and want to finish by spotlighting the key piece of my policy – Faith.

If you depend on practicing your faith by assembling in person, you’re probably finding it frustratingly hard to follow the biblical admonition to “not give up meeting together.”

A news story in my local Sacramento Bee last week said health officials found that “Nearly a third of Sacramento County’s coronavirus cases are connected to churches.” That’s 100 out of 316. Worse yet, 71 infections come from one church whose congregants have continued to hold in-person fellowship meetings.

I get it, pastors. I miss assembly too. I miss my pastor’s wife greeting us with her warm hug and engaging smile. I thrive on the real conversations I have with the men in the foyer. I feel the pull of grace in the music. I know the heart tug to seek forgiveness during communion. I need to hear what the minister has worked so hard to prepare for us.

But preachers, please – practice a faith that doesn’t endanger lives. Health officials that close churches aren’t violating our constitutional rights. The constitution guarantees equal rights, not special rights. That means if officials close bars, schools and arenas, they can close churches.

In some ways, this coronavirus intersects a convenient time. The Internet, television and social media make it easier to connect. As Christianity Today put it recently, “When God closes a church door, He opens a browser window.”

Instead of meeting on the sly, churches should emphasize “separate” instead of “isolate.” That means we keep our social distance but maintain human connections.

In times such as these, we are capable of considering online meetings. These online meetings can be the centerpiece of faith practice in the weeks to come. That’s because, as I’ve said for nearly 20 years in this column, faith has to work in everyday life. It must interact with people or it doesn’t work at all. And right now, quarantine has become our everyday existence.

I’ve found a few resources to help sharpen our skills.

For instance, Barry Smith, my former pastor, has been doing Internet church for years with 5-minute sermons in the “You Choose Community” . The website promises a choice of when and where you do church. Barry’s views tip more conservatively than mine, but I trust his heart.

My wife, Becky, enjoys the Bible Project. The site has a wide variety of biblical word analyses and historical book studies, all done with narrated, highly artistic drawings. I especially recommend them to those who appreciate objectivity.

If you do an Internet search for “online churches,” you’ll find scores of opportunities.

I’ve even started an online community opportunity. I will accept 12 people again this Sunday at 6 p.m. EST for a video conferencing chat on Zoom. All you need is an internet device with a camera. It’s super easy. Request to join through email, comment@thechaplain.net

Finally, no matter what faith you profess, hear this encouragement from the New Testament book of Hebrews: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess …. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together … but encouraging one another….”

In the midst of a flood of company policies, Missy at Delta Airlines tweeted me some great news. Delta refunded the Paris tickets Becky and I bought to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Sigh. Best policy still seems to be staying inside for a bit longer.


Visit my website to get a copy of my book www.thechaplain.net Contact Norris at comment@thechaplain.net or voicemail (843) 608-9715.

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