For my fellow faith leaders in times of Covid—19…

This was originally posted in a multi-faith Facebook group as a response to places of worship wanting to reopen or gather in person during the pandemic.

Here’s the deal.

I am a pastor as well as a therapist who works with women in chemical dependency treatment.

When I hear folks say, “so, I am thinking about holding a church service in person because we will do x or x or x to stay safe,”

This is what I hear:

“So, I know I am sober right now, but I am just going to take this one little shot of alcohol or quick hit of heroin because of x or x or x. It will be fine.”

This is a defense mechanism known as justification. And this is how people stay sick. Our spiritual communities can act just like a person, trying to justify our way into doing harmful things. Maybe I am overreacting on my part with that comparison— but y’all, I am seeing so many posts about trying to bend the rules that the CDC and other leaders have put into effect to keep us safe.

As faith leaders, I urge each of us to not slide into these defense mechanisms. I am sincerely concerned with the amount of posts I am seeing about this.

Church is not Target. I don’t hug my cashier or sing into their face or share a hymnal.

People are requesting these things because they are in denial/depression about their feelings and our current reality.

Now is a great time to do grief outreach and trauma care. And if this scares you— it’s okay. Reach out and get some resources. See how others are handling things. But don’t fall prey to the good old defense mechanisms. It’s false safety. There is no going back to normal. Now is the time to boldly shepherd folks into a new way of being together.

We can do this.

—Rev Laura Beth Gatzke

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