Churches Reopening in Minnesota Face a Different World
On Friday, March 13, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency in response to growing concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus. Concerts and other large-scale events were quickly postponed or cancelled. Churches across the Twin Cities followed suit, keeping their doors shut for the weekend.
They would remain this way for nearly three months as state-mandated quarantine measures were put into effect.
The infection rate of COVID-19 has been like nothing we’ve seen in modern times, and there is still much we don’t understand about it. However, social distancing, enhanced sanitary procedures, and quarantine policies have had a significant impact on slowing the spread of the virus. Starting June 1st, Minnesota started strategically scaling back quarantine, allowing certain establishments to reopen in a limited capacity.
Though churches across the cities have opened their doors and resumed traditional services over the past few weeks, things are not the same as they were three months ago.
A Changed Community
It’s an understatement to say a lot has happened since March. Even as churches prepared to relaunch, the city of Minneapolis was shaken by the murder of George Floyd. Peaceful protests turned to riots and looting as police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of people.
City-wide curfews were quickly established as the National Guard was called in. Events eventually calmed down after the arrest of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death, but there is still a present tension as radical change is being called for.
This tension is only amplified by the on-going impact of COVID-19.
Though effective at slowing the virus and providing relief to medical facilities, quarantine measures have taken a toll on businesses. Over 100,000 small businesses across the US have closed forever, including many in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. People who were gainfully employed at the start of the year now find themselves unsure of what to do next.
Many are looking to shift careers into newly growing fields, using increasingly popular online training programs and educational resources to do so. Outside of education, countless other industries are rapidly increasing their online offerings as well. Virtual screenings for medical, dental, and cosmetic needs have quickly become common place. Big brands are also making radical shifts as they try to stay relevant. For example, Starbucks is shifting its entire corporate strategy to focus on to-go orders.
Meanwhile, the number of people working from home has more than doubled, and it’s likely that many of these people will continue to do so, even as their places of work reopen. All this to say, the world around us is changing at an accelerated rate, and society is growing accustomed to going out less and engaging virtually.
That includes church goers.
The Reemerging Church
While it’s been common for churches to place sermons online for years now, quarantine has brought the entire church experience onto the Internet. Churches of all sizes and denominations have been live streaming services, hosting small groups via video chat, pre-recording worship sets and special performances, providing downloadable activities for kids’ church, and more.
So far, this seems to be fairly successful with many churches saying their online viewings are higher than their typical in-person attendance. But as church buildings reopen, pastors and priests are uncertain how eager people will be to return.
“There’s so much unknown going into this,” said the Rev. John Ubel of the Cathedral of St. Paul. “It’s hard to know how it will play out.”
It’s highly possible that many church members (and visitors) will continue to engage online, especially as concerns over COVID-19 remain strong. Twin Cities churches such as Bethlehem Baptist, Substance, River Valley, Wooddale, and Grace Church are working hard to be transparent in their reopening plans and the precautions that are being taken.
Still, there is no question that churches need to remain available digitally. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 combined with the pain and unrest caused by George Floyd’s murder, the Minneapolis area needs Jesus now more than ever.
The world around us may be changing, but His love remains the same.
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