by Ken Rolheiser
​Seven Step Guide to Returning to Church

One Sunday morning, a mother knocks on her son's bedroom door and tells him it's time to get up and go to church.
"I'm not going to church this morning," the son says.
"You gotta get up and go to church," says mother.
"No, I'm not," says the son."Give me two good reasons why I have to go." 
The mother patiently replies, "Number one, you're 55 years old. And number two, you're the pastor!"

Signs of life after Covid 19 restrictions include opening of churches and the resumption of worship. Social distancing is still mandated, and attendance is limited to a fraction of capacity.

To ease us back into the full life of grace the church offers, veteran Catholic journalist Gerald Korson presents “A seven-step guide for attending Mass after lockdown” (6/26/2020), which can be adapted to Christian worship in general. Here is an abbreviated version.

Step 1. Go to Mass [Service] anyway. [Whatever way you experience the Body of Christ and the presence of Christ’s love in your worship services, take advantage of the opportunity to return to church.]

Korson puts it this way: If you normally attend Mass [Service] only because it’s an obligation, then you’re missing out. In the Mass [Service], you can receive the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, with your fellow believers. There is no greater expression of the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints. It’s a privilege not to be taken lightly…

Step 2. Follow directions. Your local parish might require you enter through particular doors, wear a facemask, use hand sanitizer, or avoid congregating before and after Mass [Service]. You might find that ushers will escort you to your seats…

There might be no congregational singing, or instrumental music only. Don’t groan or roll your eyes. …You’re used to being directed to a table at restaurants, and you’ll practice similar social-distancing measures in any public building.

Step 3. Remember the collection. The pandemic and lockdown have hit churches hard. Even parishes that offer electronic giving options receive most of their weekly contributions through the collection basket. …it’s time to catch up with your parish giving. In fact, consider putting in a little extra to help support the parish’s mission.

Step 4. Avoid judging. Attendance might be smaller than you expect. You might notice some regulars missing. Don’t assume they have grown lazy or lukewarm. Those who aren’t at Mass [Service] might have legitimate reasons. Pray for them.

Step 5. Invite others to return. By the same token, when you meet or speak with other Catholics [Christians] afterward, encourage them to return to Mass [Service]. Express joy that you’ve been able to do so yourself. You might help some overcome their fears that way. 

Step 6. Get back to the box. Confession for the churches that have it. Let’s all thank God for the grace and forgiveness he offers us through the sacrament of penance [and the sacrifice of the Cross].

Step 7. Gradually resume parish life. If all goes well, things should return to normal with time. Watch for service opportunities to open up further as parish ministries resume.

All of the above are important considerations, but one bears repeating: avoid judging and be inviting! We are the church, and the Body of Christ on earth needs us. 

See you in church?

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