Thank God Churches Are Finally Waking Up

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“Even during the Spanish flu epidemic, Christians did not socially-distance, self-isolate and shield themselves from the evident needs of society.”

Ewan Gurr: ‘Thank God churches are finally waking up to crisis’ (eveningtelegraph.co.uk)

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph on 08/02/2021

A group of Scottish church leaders from various denominations have submitted a letter to the Scottish Government contesting the legality of new restrictions upon religious assembly, stating they are “a significant interference with the freedom of religion.” A separate letter submitted on behalf of the group by legal firm, Lindsay’s, requests a judicial review stating new restrictions violate human rights legislation and adding that Scotland is the only UK nation to close places of worship.

In a recent letter printed in a weekly magazine, Peter stated: “I am writing to express the shame I feel as a lifetime church member.” He conveyed his solemn dismay at the overwhelming response of nationwide churches to the pandemic. In his letter, Peter said: “Here was the greatest opportunity in 70 years to demonstrate care for our fellow people.” He added: “I hoped that there would be thousands of church members flocking to help the lonely and isolated. But I find my local church locked.”

The letter was a response to an earlier article in The Spectator where Jonathan Beswick explained his reasons for reopening the local parish church against government diktats. Father Beswick wrote: “The Christian faith is grounded in the central mystery of the incarnation: the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” He adds: “God did not reside on Mount Sinai reissuing successive tablets of stone. Rather, he got stuck into the mess and mortality that is the lot of the human race.”

I wonder what Jesus would make of it all. The pandemic of his day was leprosy and levitical law was like government guidance. Lepers wore a mark like our use of face masks, track and trace required them to shout “unclean” to anyone nearby and they lived in a perpetual state of quarantine. No sooner had Jesus set foot off the mount having delivered his signature sermon to the last, the lost and the least than he is met by a leper. Rather than turn away, he broke restrictions and reached out to the man.

From centuries of poverty alleviation to the pioneering of education, healthcare and welfare provision, the church has historically been at the vanguard of social progress and a whistle-blower to disrupt the continuum of political, economic and social inequality. Churches feed our hungry, house our homeless and enlighten our children and, even during the Spanish flu epidemic, Christians did not socially-distance, self-isolate and shield themselves from the needs of society. They did what Jesus did. 

Over 2,000 Old and New Testament scriptures implore Christians to serve the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan and victims of injustice. Throughout the pandemic, many others, including my wife and I, have been confronted with family and friends who have tested positive and for whom we have provided hot meals, groceries and newspapers. I am pleased the church has woken up because a hurting world awaits.

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