Steve Holt serves as founding minister for The Road @ Chapel Hills. He believes it is time to open his church for worship service, and that’s what he will do at 10:16 a.m. Sunday. He expects as many as 250 worshippers in the main sanctuary.
Remember, the coronavirus has contributed to more than 90,000 deaths in the United States. The doors of most congregations will be closed Sunday morning.
Is Holt worried?
“No, not at all,” he answers quickly. “I think people are so excited. There’s a lot of momentum around the nation. People are growing in confidence that this is the right thing to do.”
I am worried.
The coronavirus is vicious. The coronavirus is no respecter of persons. It kills the faithless and the faithful. You can pretend we have fully escaped a grave threat, but it’s only pretending.
A gulf — yet another one — has developed across America and Colorado Springs. Some demand rapid return to yesterday’s version of normal. And some urge caution as we learn how to tangle with a crafty, devastating beast of a virus. Attempts at communication across the gulf often fail.
Still, most of us take risks each day. We travel to the grocery store or home improvement outlet. We mingle with our coronavirus-limited circle of family and friends.
We live in a bizarre time, a time of strange nightmares, a time of future gone blurry. Faith — of any brand — is needed, and the might of a sit-down worship service remains precious.
But at what cost?
Holt says he has studied the guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for shopping. He believes safe behavior for shoppers will double as safe behavior for those who worship.
If, Holt believes, one resident of Colorado Springs is free to purchase booze or weed or steak or paint, another resident should be free to attend worship.
“We believe the most essential service needed in our society, even more than marijuana, liquor or abortion services, is our need for a relationship with God,” Holt says. “This is why Americans have always believed that religious faith is to be protected by the government, not granted by the government.
“Our city needs the local church.”
Online worship service became, almost instantly, the norm for devoted American Christians. For some, sitting at home listening to Christian oratory works. It feeds the soul.
And yet . . .
Holt insists a precious slice of the spiritual experience is missing.
“There’s this necessary part of our growth as Christians to be able to meet together and support each other, not just on a screen, but face to face,” he says.
Holt emphasizes there will be precautions. The Road’s main sanctuary has a capacity for 800. The removal of seats reduced the capacity to 250. Every surface will be disinfected, he says. Hand sanitizer pumps will be available, and essential oil dispensers will be running. Social distancing will be encouraged. And if the sanctuary is full, worshippers will be located to other rooms for livestreaming.
Holt is aware he is not following the guidelines put in place by Gov. Jared Polis.
“That’s correct,” he says, “but we’re following what we see at the large box stores. We do have a big place. Remember, we’re only there for 90 minutes.”
As part of his defense for the decision to open The Road, Holt cites 1 John 4:18, an uplifting verse from The New Testament: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”
But, remember, John was not examining the threat of coronavirus when he wrote the letter and the verse.
John was examining the threat of condemnation by God.