The news that a church service in Islington was stopped yesterday by police raises interesting questions about the legality of lockdown and the moral issues it raises during these difficult times. The Angel Church’s pastor, Regan King, spoke about his need to prioritise his responsibility to God, his congregation and community and the church’s need to serve its community as part of its Christian mission. He went on to say, “The spiritual needs of people are as essential as the physical. The supermarkets are open for the body, but what about that food for the soul that’s found in Christ alone?”
These are valid questions, and this present lockdown has seen much disquiet over the Government’s definition of “essential” and “non-essential.” With so many outlets allowed to remain open, it is hard to fathom a coherent rationale based on science behind the regulations, particularly when businesses and places of worship have taken regulations regarding social distancing and hygiene extremely seriously. Although churches can continue to meet online, it is profoundly disturbing to have governments decide when and how we can worship, and the need for “meaningful human interaction” remains an essential feature of corporate worship.
Not everyone will agree with Regan King’s decision, but I believe it is vital that we protect our legal right to gather together and are willing to put our responsibility to God above our desire for social acceptance and comfort. The apostles were clear that obedience to God could mean disobedience to civil authority at times (Acts 5:29), and without wishing for one moment to be reckless with regard to people’s health, a “greater good” may indeed exist which is not in line with the Government’s policies on handling this present crisis. I personally believe that the restrictions on normal family contact and on meeting together to worship are extremely harmful and set a very dangerous precedent, and believe that we should pray not only for an end to the pandemic but for an end to restrictions which criminalise that which is not wrong, let alone criminal.