Oh how our hearts long to hear the words “Let us worship God” as the organ bellows a hymn like “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and we unite our voices with the saints in Heaven.

While Mississippi churches were never shut down by order of the state, there were suggestions about gatherings of more and 10 amid the coronavirus pandemic and most congregations took the medical advice seriously.

Gov.Tate  Reeves did us Christians a huge favor on Tuesday by setting forth detailed guidelines to return to public worship safely soon.  Guidelines, not law.

“These guidelines are designed to allow the churches to reopen safely,” Reeves said. “Included in these are guidelines regarding deep cleaning to ensure safety, holding services for vulnerable populations separate from the rest of the congregation, limiting attendance and putting proper spacing between family units in the pews.”

Consulting with Dr. Thomas Dobbs and state health officials, Reeves developed guidelines for worship leaders and their congregations to join together to practice their faiths while continuing to help protect public health and flatten the curve.

Reeves pointed out state officials never shut down public worship but said religious leaders have been eager to receive good medical advice on how and when to gather again. The guidelines are at onlinemadison.com/ftp/worship.pdf.

Other features in the new guidelines include suspension of the traditional passing of the offering plate, closing coffee stations and forgoing performances from the whole choir in favor of ensembles or individuals. 

Officials are recommending a start date of at least June 1 to begin meeting in person. The governor, a United Methodist, said that personally he will continue to worship on the Lord’s Day with his family at the Governor’s Mansion for the “foreseeable future.”

“We have decided that our family will continue to worship from home,” Reeves said, after noting that these were just guidelines, not mandated rules. “I believe in my heart that our church is not a building. We can honor our Lord and still keep our neighbors safe.”

The guidelines should be taken seriously as hard as they are. No hugging. (Tell that to a class of Special Friends.) We are relational, but these are necessary guidelines. We implore you, listen to the Governor’s advice. He is sincere. These guidelines are good for now.