Churches should never turn people away, should they? That is the question that is burning on many church members minds as the issue of vaccinations continues to dominate the secular and religious landscape.
A growing number of churches are implementing their own policies in the absence of major denominations giving clear direction on the issue.
Marda Loop Church in Calgary, Canada re-opened for live services for the first time in over a year on September 12. However, only double vaccinated people were allowed to attend.
Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia also just opened their doors for the first time in over a year and along with vaccination proof, church members must have their temperature checked, sign a waiver, and wear a mask.
When the church says everyone must be vaccinated, they mean everyone. People under the age of 12 aren’t even allowed in the church building. Youth services are streamed online only.
For the Swiss, they are not letting individual churches decide but have incorporated them into a national mandate. Any church service that has more than 50 people will be required to enforce Covid passport restrictions.
The restriction means that many local churches are now asked to control the access of attendants and make sure attendants have the official document that proves they have been vaccinated against the virus, have recovered from an infection, or have tested negative.
The Association of Free Churches in Switzerland (Freikichen) responded to the implementation of the measure on 13 September with disappointment. “Visiting a church service is something elemental for Christians. It is an individual but also communitarian and spiritual experience”.
The medical pass may bring more “security”, the association says, but affects the “personal decisions” of citizens. “We have encouraged people to get vaccinated” but “we respect” the personal election of every citizen, they add. “We are focused on the proclamation of the healing message of Jesus, and on worship services in which we experience God and strive to his liveable presence in the community”.
Talking to the authorities, the group of Swiss Free Churches had asked for alternative solutions which could improve security without excluding people. Ideas such as open-air services, multiple services, and rooms with live streaming, were put on the table.
In contrast with the perspective of most evangelical churches, both the mainline Protestant Reformed Church (EKS) and the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland have supported the new restrictions in religious activities, as they prioritized the “growing figures of infections” across Switzerland.
Netzwerk Kirche und Corona (Network Church and Corona), which brings together theologians from diverse Christian confessions in Switzerland to analyze the Covid-19 crisis, has also been critical of the national authorities.
According to this group, local church communities are not legally entitled to make determinations regarding Covid-19 certificates, and do not support banning someone’s access to a church service only because they do not have such a medical certificate.
The network has even said it would seek financial help for churches who are fined by the authorities for not implementing the new Covid-19 certificate restrictions.