In this time of a global pandemic we are using terms that attempt to characterize where we find ourselves in this challenging time.  “Social or physical distancing” has become a commonplace term.  “Stay home, stay safe” has been coined as a phrase to allow us to “flatten the curve.”

We have heard that some state governors have declared that all “non-essential” businesses close and shelter for a period of time. The governors have to make a decision around what is essential and what is not essential.  Essentials include some of the obvious places: hospitals and health care facilities; emergency services; grocery stores; public transportation; trucking and airlines; gas stations; pharmacies and of course liquor stores!  In Massachusetts, Governor Baker has included in essential services an interesting phrase, “Workers at places of worship”.

Now I haven’t talked to Governor Baker, but I don’t believe that the Governor is referring to pastors needing to sit at their desks at church in order for ministry to take place. I also would not interpret this sentence as meaning we should be gathering together inside our church buildings at this time. In fact, I think we have a responsibility to not be in our buildings during this time and to model to our communities that we take seriously the recommendation to “stay safe and to stay home.”  I think the Governor might understand that faith is essential in times of trouble and challenge and we are certainly in such a time.

I agree that our congregations and places of worship are an essential part of society.  We provide meaning and hope.  We offer a view of the world that embraces the idea that God loves the Creation and that all of God’s children are beloved.  We know that our congregations are in communities and have an essential obligation to make an impact on these communities and in particular to address the needs and challenges of the least among us.  We do not exist for ourselves. The church is called to “live the love and justice of Jesus”. 

Jack Perkins Davidson, Senior Pastor of Spring Glen Church in Hamden, CT offered his interpretation of the word “essentials” on Facebook:
“In an emergency shutdown, it’s interesting how people on both the “essential personnel” list and on the “non-essential personnel” list can feel expendable.

Important reminder for everyone: You are loved. You are strong. You are essential.

Often when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of Heaven, he wasn’t talking about the afterlife; he was teaching a way of living on earth — a way that would upend our unjust social-political-economic-religious hierarchies by uplifting the putdown.

Tonight’s biblical grounding, Luke 6 adapted:
‘Essential are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Essential are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Essential are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

‘Essential are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you while misusing Christ’s name as an excuse for their anti-science white supremacy. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

‘But woe to you who profit off of suffering,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who hoard supplies you don’t need,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who aren’t taking this seriously,
for you will mourn and weep.

‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
So colleagues, let us remember that all of God’s children are essential.  Let us practice physical distancing, wash our hands, use our sanitizer and continue to be the Body of Christ.  We are called to be beacons of light and hope in the midst of the challenge of our time.  Essentially we proclaim God’s love for all.

May it be so.
Essential services list can be found here:



Kent J. Siladi

Rev. Kent Siladi is the Director of Philanthropy for the National Office of the United Church of Christ.

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