What Churches Must Do on Good Friday

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/04/10/what-churches-must-do-on-good-friday/

Christians commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday, which Christians believe attains redemption for the sins of mankind and makes it possible for human beings to go to Heaven.

It is at once the saddest and most hope-filled day of the year. Sad because of the torture and death of a man not only innocent but also embodying love itself. Hope-filled because through his willing suffering and death we get a glimmer of salvation, something we have no hope of without it.

Many Christian churches observe Good Friday – either through formal liturgical services or less formal contemplation of God. It’s a vital day to set aside time for prayer.

Yet Good Friday is incomplete. The suffering and death of Jesus is not the whole story. There wouldn’t be a Christianity if it were. Good Friday is the necessary preceding event that leads to Easter, when Christians commemorate Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. Easter is the crescendo of Christianity, when Jesus conquers death and makes it possible for us to live forever with him.

This year, in many parts of the world and in almost all parts of our country, churches are closed to all but the priest or minister who runs them and perhaps a handful of assistants. For the vast majority of believers, there is no room at the inn.

Coronavirus – and, more specifically, the fear of coronavirus – has led governors to order draconian limits on gatherings of any kind, and religious leaders to go along with them.

For more than three weeks now, nearly all churches in the country have not welcomed pilgrims trying to make the journey to Christ.

These decisions, whether right or wrong, have been made in good faith. (So to speak.) Public officials and religious leaders want to protect our health and the health of those around us.

But churches must re-open at some point – and soon. Christians need churches to tend to their souls.

For a Christian, spiritual well-being is more important than physical well-being. After all, we’re all going to die, no matter how well we take care of our bodies. Our time on earth is short, whether it’s a few days or 120 years. Eternity is forever.

So on this Good Friday, church leaders need to begin the process of reopening their churches. By “process” we mean series of steps that lead to churches eventually reopening their doors to anyone who wants to come. To start a process requires coming up with a plan:  Under what circumstances do we intend to do this-and-such, and on what date do we intend to do it?

Just as Good Friday leads to Easter, this process needs to lead to an opening of the tombs that our churches have become.

Depending on the denomination, each bishop or pastor or church council should come up with a plan today that sets forth a date certain when the church these people administer is going to open.

Church leaders should begin this process without any regard for the civil authorities. The civil authorities have their proper role, but it is limited. Our federal and state constitutions explicitly limit the role of government when it comes to religion.

The First Amendment famously prevents Congress from making a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion – and through the U.S. Supreme Court’s incorporation doctrine, courts hold that the First Amendment applies to state governments, as well.

Less famously, Article II of the Massachusetts Constitution states:

It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience …

These constitutional guarantees are sometimes misunderstood, so let us make them plain. They are not American celebrations of religion or freedom. They are bright, clear limits on the authority of the government.

In other words:

Can governors order churches to close?


And if it comes to it, that’s what bishops and pastors and other church leaders should tell the governor.

They can’t arrest all of you.