The CDC finally relaxed its guidance concerning the wearing of masks. All this means is that they finally recognized the reality of the data, which spoke clearly that cases, hospitalizations and deaths were cratering. Simply put, the CDC had to bend to the reality of the data, this being the building block of actual science, as opposed to “the science” (which is defined as the majority). It was also clear to the CDC that substantial portions of the populace were ditching the mask mandates anyway, along with major jurisdictions, like Texas (which didn’t have a death wish after all). This somewhat cynical sounding view is buttressed by the fact that CDC head Rochelle Walensky cited data in her announcement that was available months ago. This being the case the CDC needed to act if it is to have any shred of credibility the next time a pandemic shows up, which, given its track record, it should not.
All of this points out that the unreasonableness of the strictures emanating from the government were not about science but about control based upon fear. This fear can be seen here and here. Also exploded are the dire predictions of the fear mongers and their “models” that proved wildly inaccurate. Nonetheless, we should welcome this bit of sanity, even if it is self-serving.
This new guidance comes at an ideal time in the Christian calendar, as this coming Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. As detailed in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and literally lit a fire under their asses. They were driven from the upper room where they had been hiding and sent out into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
The clear implication for us and for our lives as faithful followers of Christ is that we are to be out in the world, not of it, but in it for certain. God never calls His people to hide, He never calls us to silence, and He provides us all that we need to not fear proclaiming the Gospel. This does not mean that we are all to go out and stand on the street corner shouting REPENT THE END IS NEAR. It means that we are to be doing whatever it is we can with the gifts of time and treasure that God has given to us. Mostly, it simply means we have to do something, anything for the furtherance of spreading the Good News.
To that end, it is time, past time actually, that we renew and revive church life. As part of proclaiming the Gospel, it is necessary to come together in shared, in-person worship. There is now no medical excuse to open up our churches fully and invite all who would enter to do so and be welcomed. It is time to open up the physical facilities to all the ministry that used to take place there but was put on hold. Yes, I know that the point has been made that the church is more than simply in person worship, but IT IS that. Communal worship is not a sufficient condition for the existence of the church, but it is a necessary one.
Of course, there are those who will say but what of the unvaccinated? At this point there is no adult who is unvaccinated, except by choice. I encourage all to get vaccinated, but I respect the choice of those who wish to not do so. If there are those who choose not to, they, as all of us must, live with the consequences of their choices. They can either accept the risk or avoid crowds altogether. The second choice would be sad, and perhaps not one that fully embraces the call to ministry, but again, I will respect it.
Also, there are those who are truly anxious and afraid. This kind of anxiety is not weakness, moral or mental, but simply a facet of people being human. We should encourage those anxious brothers and sisters to seek help in overcoming their anxiety, yet at the same time never shame them for this anxiety.
Whatever the reason that some will not come back, we must not let those reasons prevent us from returning to active ministry, it is simply too important. This is a part of the overall need for humanity to return to normal and healthy interactions with one another; like school, work and social recreation. God does not just call us to formal ministry but to live fully human lives in community. The way we live those lives is in fact a part of our proclamation.
We can’t live out our proclamation, either formally or otherwise if we are hiding in a self-imposed exile, a modern day “upper room”, if you will. We must be out living the lives God gave us. Now that the CDC has finally acknowledged what so many of us knew some time ago, there is no longer an excuse to accepting that God has lit a fire under us as surely as He did the Apostle’s. The call has been made. As always, the only unknown is how shall we answer.
Praise Be to God