Dave Grohl on Large Gatherings

May 24th, 2020 No comments

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters said this:

In today’s world of fear and unease and social distancing, it’s hard to imagine sharing experiences like these ever again. I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice. We’re human. We need moments that reassure us that we are not alone. That we are understood. That we are imperfect. And, most important, that we need each other.

The Atlantic via Eric Geiger

Post-Coronavirus Safe Gatherings

May 24th, 2020 No comments

Someone forwarded this:

3. Attending a religious service indoors: high risk

Worship services involve people from different households coming together indoors for an extended time. “All of the ingredients are there for the potential for a lot of people becoming infected in the short amount of time,” says Kimberly Powers, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She points to outbreaks linked to churches: In one, 35 out of 92 people who attended a service at a rural Arkansas church developed COVID-19.

Singing — whether from the pews or the choir — is high risk, several experts noted, citing a study of a choir practice in Washington state where over half of attendees became infected.

What alters risk: If people are appropriately socially distanced, wear masks and avoid singing, it may reduce the risk, Karan says. Also, avoid any shared worship items like hymnals, Janowski adds.

Risk goes down if places of worship adapt, Guzman-Cottrill says. “My parish began having in-person services last week,” she says. The church had advance sign-ups to limit attendance to 25 people. Attendees were required to be healthy, wear face coverings and sit at least 6 feet apart.

Source: NPR

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Kate Bowlers TED Talk

May 24th, 2020 No comments

Kate Bowlers, author of Everything Happens for a Reason:

Reopening a Church

April 22nd, 2020 No comments

Add this to the list of things they don’t teach in Seminary.

I’ve been thinking about how the end (or maybe the next phases?) of the Coronavirus lockdown will affect our congregation.

Government-supplied Guidance

First, if you haven’t done so, it’s worth looking at the CDC guidelines for a phased reopening of America.

Also, Governor Dunleavy has announced that businesses can begin to reopen starting this Friday, April 24, subject to “strict” health and safety standards. The “social distancing” Mandate 11, however, will continue to be in effect until it is rescinded.

Some key words are “Strict” vs. “moderate” vs. “limited” as applied to physical distancing protocols.  Strict means 10 or fewer people and six feet of spacing; moderate means 50 or fewer and six feet of spacing; limited appears to do away with limits on group size, but seems to envision continued extra cleaning and use of masks and/or gloves. See below.

An article at the Christianity Today website gives some ideas about how the reopening will roll out in churches across the different areas of the country.

I compared the CT piece with the CDC guidance and it seems pretty reasonable. I would summarize it for our purposes as follows:

Vulnerable populations (many of our congregation due to their age and/or serious underlying health conditions) will be encouraged to continue to shelter in place until Phase 3, when they will still be encouraged to practice social distancing.

Phase One permits large venues (including houses of worship) to operate “subject to strict physical distancing protocols”. That’s more or less what we have now, and difficult to implement in our facilities (see the implementation ideas below for the reason).

Phase Two permits houses of worship to operate under a moderate physical distancing protocol. This would entail:

  • sanitation – cleaning surfaces like doors, rails, countertops, bathrooms, and posting schedules listing when last cleaned. Also making hand sanitizer / disinfecting wipes readily available throughout the building. 
  • safety – providing masks and gloves for people coming to worship; family worship only (no children’s ministry); and spacing out the seating (possibly adding multiple worship services). 
  • size – the limit of 50 is actually more than our building will accommodate if we space out the seating. We’ve averaged 45 people in worship this year, but we probably can’t have more than 30 or so with proper spacing. Will we need multiple services?

Phase Three allows vulnerable individuals to resume public interactions, but with physical distancing. For their sakes (and maybe? — but I can’t find it mandated) we would continue to provide phase 2-level sanitation and safety features.

Reopening JLP

The Governor’s Mandate 11 lists several businesses that can reopen this Friday, but houses of worship aren’t on the list. (Perhaps by oversight?) As may be, the UMC Bishop said that all UMC churches in her area, including Alaska, are to remain closed through April 30.

It appears, however, that JLP could reopen as soon as May 3. To do so, we need to:

  • convince liturgists, musicians, technical arts, and any others involved in leading worship that we’re ready to worship together again.
  • but also to discourage vulnerable people (at least half the congregation, depending on the definition of “elderly”) from joining those who are worshiping together. In Christian charity, this would require at least a livestream of the service to be available online.
  • space out the pews appropriately
  • recruit volunteers to implement an enhanced cleaning regimen and provide them necessary supplies
  • obtain supplies of masks and gloves to supply to people who wish to use them.
  • figure out how to livestream a real worship service (one with parishioners present) including both the technical and volunteer-training requirements

That’s not a small amount of work. What else needs to be done?

We should firm this up into a real plan and begin implementing it.

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Online Worship – Things to Think About

April 19th, 2020 No comments

I liked these two brief videos about producing online worship because they suggested taking a step back and thinking first about goals. (Don’t get me wrong: I’ve appreciated all the great content that bypasses that, for people who just want to do something. But with Easter behind us and no clear timeframe or picture of how the Covid-19 lockdown’s going to end, we need to look at the bigger picture.)

The first video asks you to consider what works best in the online realm. Are you trying to replicate online what you’ve been doing on Sundays, or are you (virtually) inviting people over to your house, like you would for a small group?

The second video picks up from there. Now that you’ve decided how you view the online medium, the next thing is to consider your objective. Why do you want to have worship online? There are lots of possible reasons. Pick one and go from there. (The video gives some ideas if you just can’t settle on a single objective.)

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2020 Bible Reading Plan

January 1st, 2020 No comments

I should have thought about this earlier. Today, I just finished a chapter of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. But tomorrow, I’ll try the 5 Day Bible Reading Plan.

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Church Architecture

December 23rd, 2019 No comments

Someone sent me a reflection about church architecture that included this quote from R.C. Sproul:

It behooves us, I think, to note the great care with which God gave His people plans for the tabernacle, their first worship environment. Like the temple that followed, the tabernacle was a place of beauty, glory, and transcendence. It was like no other place in the lives of God’s people. We need to understand that our church architecture communicates something to our visual senses, and, therefore, that architecture can promote or hinder our sense of the presence of God.

R.C. Sproul (attributed)

I haven’t read much of Sproul, but I admire what I have. This is a good example of how even the parts of the Bible that don’t seem very interesting — in my Bible, Exodus 25–27 spans five pages. In my Bible software, it spans 98 verses and 2400 words — are worth giving unhurried reflection.

I remember having the feeling of awe that Sproul describes when we went to Europe. It was especially evident in St. Peter’s, although we weren’t able to spend much time there. I understand Jacob’s desire to memorialize the thin space where he saw the angels going up and down the stairway to heaven.

But be careful. There are (at least) two dangers here, both related to idolatry. First, building God a house might be a noble idea, but then again, it might be an attempt to domesticate him, or at least put him in a box. If we’re honest, for most people it’s a little of both. And God doesn’t like being boxed in. Consider the way that the Israelites tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as a magic talisman. Note also that God never asked David to build him a Temple. God was happy with a Tent. Even the divine name seems designed (unlike our word “God”) to resist human attempts to limit or constrain or manipulate God.

Secondly, not every idol takes the shape of a Golden Calf. God specifically forbade the use of visual imagery to represent him and there’s a fine line between glorifying God and making an idol. God gave instructions for the Tabernacle and for the Temple, so I have to assume that, if they were followed, and followed properly, that danger was avoided. But when Nehemiah and Ezra rebuilt the Temple, it made people cry who remembered the old Temple. They missed the good thing that was being done right then, because of their lingering attachment to the former things. Jesus, for his part, seems remarkably unconcerned with the fine stonework in Herod’s Temple.

I can’t speak for other traditions, but Presbyterians aren’t enamored with the idea of sacred space. Yes, as the seraphim never stop telling each other, God is Holy, Holy, Holy — transcendent otherness, squared and cubed. And yet, as they also said, heaven and earth, are filled with His glory — all of earth, like all of heaven. If Jesus can sanctify a manger in a barn, or a gore-covered instrument of torture, then so can he make a big box in a strip mall become a house of worship.

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Pages Without Peace

November 19th, 2019 No comments

I use the Pages app on MacOS, which very helpfully indicates the words it doesn’t know how to spell. For example, it flagged “peace” as either a typo or some obscure word that no ordinary dictionary would list.

Pages on MacOS spell-checker
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Web Roundup – Dec. 28

November 19th, 2019 No comments

Peter Attia podcast: Peter interviews Scott Harrison, founder of Charity:Water. An inspiring story of someone with a glamorous life who found real meaning and purpose.

Pew: Millennial households are earning more than most older Americans did at the same age.

Nonbeliever Tim Bray’s thoughts on attending a worship service on Christmas Eve.

Nutrition Coaltion: Low-Carb Diet Yields Groundbreaking Results for T2 Diabetes (Report to Congress). Plus this: Nutrition Coaltion: Diabetes and Obesity Still on the Rise – Billions Spent Promoting Dietary Guidelines Hasn’t Made a Dent. Some interesting stats in there. Also note where Alaska ranks!

“And among those animals on two legs there are some who are deserving of that description — humans.” Simcha Rotem, last surviving fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, dies at 94

A hero of the Rwandan Genocide has died. I’m still thinking about the theological implications of the method she used to deter the interhamwe militia.

Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in the Bible is revolutionary. Some evangelicals silence her. “Some” people do all kinds of things. But good luck. It would be like trying to make water dry.

Six Reasons Why Young People Leave the Church

Capitol Hill has lost 40% of its buildings devoted to religious practice. Does a religious community need its own building to flourish? (WashingtonPost) (Note to self: Resist the impulse to tie this to the state of national politics.)

Sikhs, the new lions of the American trucking industry (GetReligion)

Aeon: Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it

Cosmic Airburst May Have Wiped Out Part of the Middle East 3,700 Years Ago. My first thought on reading this was “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Someday I’m going to get around to reading 1177 BC: The Year that Civilization Collapsed.

Apropos the previous, consider the following from the ADN: Meteor swarm could be loaded with surprises in June.

But some of the traffic is going the other way: Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space, Over 18 Billion Kilometers from Earth

Oops! I wrote all that late last year, but apparently I never got around to publishing the draft. I wonder how many of these links still work?

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Holding on to Christ

August 3rd, 2019 No comments

Martin Luther, in my devotional this morning:

The person who holds on to Jesus in faith will receive forgiveness of sins. God’s laws will be fulfilled, death will be conquered, and the devil will be overcome. That person will receive the gift of eternal life. For in this one man, Jesus, all is settled. He has fulfilled everything. Whoever accepts him has everything.

The key part is “who holds on to.” He came to fulfill the Law, yes, but apart from him, the Law continues to operate.

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