Deem Worship to be "Essential"
Deem Worship to be "Essential"
Dear Governor Stitt,
Many mayors around our great state of Oklahoma have issued "shelter-in-place" proclamations prohibiting citizens from leaving their residences for any reason other than for "essential activities" or to operate "essential businesses."
The current threat of illness creates in us a disposition to a profound sadness and also to fear. No one in their right mind would desire to contract the illness connected with the virus or to spread it to anyone else, especially to any one of the more vulnerable of our society whose lives must be respected and protected. In order to "flatten the curve," we must isolate ourselves, sometimes even from our own families. If the illness itself associated with the virus were not enough to worry us, we cannot ignore the economic devastation which the spread of the virus has caused, with its grievous effects on individuals and families, and those who serve us in so many ways in our daily life.
It is a fundamental act of charity to use every prudent means to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus, while providing for necessities such as access to food, water and medicine. We can, for example, visit the supermarket and the pharmacy, with the observance of the precautions of social distancing and of use of disinfectants on the part of all involved.
In considering what is needed to live, we must not forget that our first consideration is our relationship with God. We recall the words of Our Lord in the Gospel according to John: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we come to him and make our home with him” (14, 23). Christ is the Lord of nature and of history. He is not distant and disinterested in us and the world. He has promised us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28, 20). In combatting the evil of the coronavirus, our most effective weapon is, therefore, our relationship with Christ through prayer and penance, and devotions and sacred worship. We turn to Christ to deliver us from pestilence and from all harm, and He never fails to respond with pure and selfless love. That is why it is essential for us, at all times and above all in times of crisis, to have access to our churches and chapels, to the Sacraments, and to public devotions and prayers.
Even as we have found a way to provide for food and medicine and other necessities of life during a time of contagion, without irresponsibly risking the spread of the contagion, so, in a similar way, we can find a way to provide for the necessities of our spiritual life. Many of our churches and chapels are very large. They permit a group of the faithful to gather for prayer and worship without violating the requirements of “social distance.” We can implement disinfectant regimens before and after any prayer or worship service. At our smaller churches and chapels where it may not be feasible to practice the requirements of "social distance", we can conduct "drive-in" services in our parking lots where faithful can be physically present (a great consolation) but remain in their cars in order to prevent any contagion. In short, it is perfectly reasonable to allow for necessary public worship while protecting the lives of all of the citizens of this great state.
The current state of the "shelter-in-place" proclamations appears to prohibit citizens from leaving their residences in order to visit a church or chapel, because prayer and worship are not deemed essential activities. By designating churches as essential and by designating prayer and worship to be an essential activity, you would be making clear the necessity of these activities while freeing the consciences of those who desire to leave their homes in order to visit a place of worship.