Politics, and a
Being a Friendly Church in a Post-COVID Culture
By Charity Sexton
As I look back on my childhood, I recall something intimate about the traditional handshake many of us experienced growing up in church. As we approach the close of a pandemic and the reopening of places of worship, we are faced with the question, “Did the coronavirus eliminate the traditional church handshake forever?”
Fear of the virus has flooded across the country, even into our churches. Public health officials have concluded that COVID-19 is highly infectious and poses a risk not only to the elderly, but to all people. The Center for Disease Control warns we “can become infected by coming into close contact (about 6 feet) with a person who has COVID-19.” You may also be infected by touching a surface or object with the virus on it, and that includes handshakes.
Current evidence suggests the virus may remain viable for hours and even days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. With no vaccine to protect against coronavirus, the best protection is to avoid exposure. As a registered nurse, I can testify I have seen and experienced the severity of COVID-19 firsthand. I am still working today alongside many nurses and healthcare providers who continue to battle COVID-19.
As pastors consider opening their doors, concerns will be elevated about a possible relapse or the spread of COVID-19. It is important to educate church members about the importance of not practicing the traditional handshake we all have grown to know and love.
While social distancing is still encouraged, even required in many places, we have other means of greeting one another. Greetings can come in the form of a pleasant smile accompanied by a slight nod. You may simply use a verbal hello followed by the question “How have you been?” implying interest in a conversation. A cheery wave towards an individual can be offered from a safe distance. A loose salute can also be implemented into a greeting, or even a tap of the foot.
With COVID-19 transmitting easily from person to person, we must consider alternatives to our typical physical handshakes and hugs. By choosing an alternative greeting, we can reduce the way people come in close contact with one another as churches resume worship. Continued practice of social distancing is crucial in reducing the possible spread of the disease. While choosing an alternative method of greeting may be an inconvenience, it can prove to be the best option to protect our church members from possible exposure.
Friendliness is vital to our worship and by no means can or should we eliminate the practice. However, safety is of vital concern. Consider a smile and verbal greeting to be an act of kindness and friendliness that can transition from the traditional handshake into new practices in a post COVID-19 culture. The alternative smiles and verbal greetings we share with others as we resume our church gatherings will leave a lasting impression.
Ultimately, eliminating the handshake will not only reduce risk of exposure, it may save a life!
About the Writer: Charity Sexton and her husband David
started CrossPointe FWB Church in Suffolk, Virginia, where
they still minister.