Corona: the virus still sucks
March 30, 2020
The good in the bad
April 21, 2020

Now there is no way around the realization: our church is not systemically relevant.

Actually, we don't believe that, we think we are irreplaceable. But lo and behold: the state blows the whistle, the church listens, poof, all church services are cancelled. And? Was there something?

Perhaps "system relevance" is more a question of perspective. What is already important for the system? I mean, Easter, for example, will take place, with or without public church services. The chocolate bunnies in the supermarkets prove that - because they are system-relevant. So, the supermarkets. Our society doesn't let itself be deprived of the really important things (chocolate bunnies).

And the church services?

Take place yes! On the Internet. Everyone is streaming now. Many of them even stream amazingly well, you can't complain about the livestreams of my parish, for example. Respect, colleagues! And if you don't like it, you can also find the Mass from Cologne Cathedral and the Vatican on TV or the Internet, etc.....

I find these broadcasts extremely important. For older people in particular, they are often - and not just now in the Corona crisis - the only way to celebrate a service. (These seniors, however, are often not as naturally on the Internet as the generation of their children and grandchildren who are now doing all the livestreams. So I fear that many of the new broadcasts are not reaching their target audience at all. But that's just in parentheses :-)

But is that really all there is to our church?

I'm not talking about Caritas and the educational institutions. I would say that we are really "system-relevant" here, at least where the church still runs hospitals and old people's homes, of course the actual Caritas social stations, but also in inpatient child and youth welfare. Emergency telephones are also booming right now, because domestic violence is on the rise. There and in many other places, the Church is already doing a good job, even if it is not always visible.

But we are talking about our "core business", our "unique selling point", the liturgy. Now some say: why didn't the church fight back? We should never have allowed ourselves to be banned from public worship services so completely!

There's something to that. I'm also surprised that nothing at all is supposed to be possible. If I may return to my chocolate bunny: when I buy it, I inevitably come close to both the cashier and several other customers. In a normal weekday mass, I only have to sit in the front row and have clearly more than two meters of safety distance in all directions... But good. I don't want to complain about it, the decisions have been made.

The question remains: what are we doing for our faith if we are not allowed to meet in church? And now, exactly at this point, disappointment spreads through me. The only thing we can think of (liturgically) is the question of the sacraments? We move the Mass to the screen and read texts about spiritual communion. In Italy, priests walk through empty streets with the monstrance. Others discuss how to hear confessions and administer the anointing of the sick while respecting hygiene rules. I don't want to denigrate all this, they are legitimate questions and ideas - but those of priests! Does our church really not have more to offer, have we learned nothing at all in the last years and decades?

Creative ideas and initiatives are popping up everywhere. Home services are designed and shared so that families and home communities can celebrate among themselves: with songs, Bible texts, impulse questions, something for the children to do, a video for the youth. Parishes pack "Easter bags" or distribute blessed palm branches. People have so many good ideas!

What I'm missing is the realization that this is all worship, too.

If I put an "Easter bag" on Grandma Schmitz's doorstep - with pious and funny texts, with an Easter candle and more - then that's relevant. For the system? For society! And above all for our church: whether we can do something like that or not will determine whether people will still need us when all this is over.

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