Almost back to the church.

Almost back to the church.

Returning to churches after Covid-19 lockdown experience

May 26, 2020 | CD-EUDNews. Elsa Cozzi

As the pandemic is getting to its next step of actions and measures, church leaders and members are trying to figure out how they will manage the return to in-person church attendance and worship, being respectful of the state restrictions they have to comply with.

During confinement, several actions and activities have been put together in every single family, church, conference, union… to be able to cope with all the challenges that this crisisbrought to every single inhabitant of the planet. 

From one Sabbath to the other, churches have had to adapt and respond to COVID-19 in their own way and allow their members to keep being connected while being able to worship and adore God on Sabbath. 

Church attendance and relationships changed frameworks. Many have “migrated” their services and groups onto digital platforms, and all were more than grateful to Zoom and similar livestreaming platforms to have provided them opportunities for regular corporate worship and connections. Intergenerational service was looking different in lockdown season, given the limitations from our governments. Most probably, some churches have been still considering how they could be more intentionally intergenerational despite the fact that their members were participating in a virtual way. 

As Sabbath services were provided for adults through the internet, we as Children’s Ministries leaders and Children's Sabbath School teachers did our best to provide parentswith ideas, videos, and any other useful tools to continue discipling their children as they were confined at home. It has been a very special time for families and churches to understand the value of connecting with God as a family. It was the smallest nucleus of an intergenerational worship: a family joining to pray, sing, read God’s word, and sharing faith experiences together. If, at the beginning, it seemed difficult and demanding, after some weeks, it became part of the “normal” way to worship on Sabbaths. Finally, with all those possibilities and choices, for some, this turned out to be too many options and they felt even overwhelmed.

Now, after several weeks or months, restrictions are starting to be eased up on and “new” rules and actions are being put in place. One of those is the “after-pandemic-return-to -church” attendance experience, remaining respectful of all the rules and conditions given by laws and regulations.

As I was considering this “return to church” from the children’s and Children’s Ministries side, some simple but challenging questions came to my mind:

- How will the return to church be for children?

- How will the Children’s Sabbath School leaders and teachers organise their classes to comply with government requirements on health protection?

- What are the main challenges in church facilities in regard to the children’s activities and rooms?

- Will children be allowed to access the church facilities and mingle with older generation members?

- How can the worship time still be “intergenerational” in this new church framework?

- ...

I have to say that some of my questions are still awaiting an answer, as the return to church is not yet a reality. However, I’m concerned as I think and empathize with many children who, from one Sabbath to another, have been locked down without having the possibility to meet with their friends at church and are longing to see them and play with them again.

They also look forward to experiencing the Sabbath worship together with all the other brothers and sisters as they were used to. Will it be the same? Will they be allowed to be part of the church life as before? And then, I wonder if and how the worship time can still be“intergenerational”, while having to keep distances or having to respect a maximum number of participants. Will the children be asked to stay at home with their families because they are increasing the number of participants and hindering some other adults’ participation? 

The answers will come in a near future but, in the meantime, I dare to appeal to all decision-makers in our churches to keep in mind the needs and the desire of children to be part of their church. This is also a way to “let the children come to Jesus and not hinder them”.

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