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Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic

The above screenshot is from the website for First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I attended First Baptist in the mid-1960s when it was located on Alpine Drive, and again in the 1970s when it was located in the old Methodist building on the corner of Beech and Butler. The pastor at the time was Jack Bennett.

Today, the church is pastored by John MacFarlane. John was a young boy in the church when I headed off to college in 1976. I used to bale hay for John’s father Randy. At one time, I had a number of family members and close friends who attended First Baptist. Today? Pretty much a new crowd. The old folks have died off, and those of us who were young years ago are now the new old folks. Such is the circle of life.

I really don’t know John that well. I know he’s a Fundamentalist, but I hoped he had a better understanding of the world than his predecessor, Jack Bennett. John’s no dummy, so I am astounded by the fact that he intends to continue holding services on Sundays. He’s canceling the Wednesday services and Sunday school, but Sunday morning and Sunday night? Game on! Everything we KNOW about the COVID-19 virus tells us that the best way to impede its spread is NOT to gather in groups. Stay at home, and avoid contact with other people. Churches are no different from schools, restaurants, sporting events, or other places where large numbers of people gather. John KNOWS this, yet he plans to have church anyway. Maybe he thinks God will be with them or be some sort of talisman that will protect them from the Coronavirus. Maybe he thinks if the church congregation prays real, real, real hard that God will hear their prayers and pass over them like he did the Israelites in Egypt. If so, he’s delusional. God is AWOL, and the only hope now is us. If we don’t do the right thing, who will?

You may remember that I mentioned earlier this week what John said about the Coronavirus in a blog post titled COVID-19 DOES Work Together for Good:

Listen here, you dirty coronavirus bug! You will NOT win! In Jesus name, the church is going to use what you are doing to the world and turn it around for something good. Your days of creating chaos will come to an end as Jesus heals body and soul. Your fear will be vanquished in the life-giving blood of Jesus as He makes new creatures, converting the lost souls. Persecution has never diminished the affects of the church. Quite the opposite! Persecution has always caused the church to grow and flourish. And, even though we can’t see you, you are an enemy that WILL be defeated. You will NOT conquer. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Jesus name — and all God’s people said — AMEN!

The fact that First Baptist, along with a handful of other local Evangelical churches, is having church on Sunday is yet more proof that Governor Mike DeWine should have ordered churches to close. Churches are nothing more than a weak link in an otherwise exemplary plan for controlling the virus in Ohio. (Dear Governor DeWine: Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just today, the Defiance County Department of Health said we now have our first confirmed case of infection in the county. It’s coming, John. For you, for your family, for the people you pastor. Do the right thing and close up shop and wait for the all-clear from Ohio Department of Health. Until then, you are risking the infection and death of your family, church members, and fellow citizens.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    The Governor made a grave error and the pastor is going to continue the harm inherent in that decision. One gathering at a church on Sunday morning could simply be the event that begins a whole new cluster of disease spreading through the community. Why are evangelicals so thick in the head and unable to adjust to life? Have they not heard of the internet and group meetings using Skype or many other platforms? Is it all about the offering olate finally, passing the virus from hand to hand while singing Just As I Am?

  2. Avatar

    I’m all for letting the cult die. Sadly, they’ll go on to infect hundreds of innocent people while thinking their Jesus is protecting them from yet another enemy.

  3. Avatar

    This is at the least irresponsible, and at the worst deadly. I hope this pastor’s parishioners have more sense than their pastor. Even the fundies I grew up with in the South – from those who are pastors, wives of pastors, and church members – are posting how you can watch their services online. Not a single one is talking about attending a service in person.

  4. Avatar

    The Jewish community, in our neighboring town, Lakewood, is also no exception to gatherings. Our governor, Phil Murphy, has implemented a…no gathering over 50 people and 2 Jewish weddings had to be disbanded by local police.

      • Avatar
        ... Zoe ~

        Bruce Gerencser: “I wonder if IFB hatred for government drives some of refusal to close.”

        Zoe: You know Bruce, this is an interesting thing to consider. How many of those elected government officials around Trump, in the Senate etc., are in fact IFB church members. Pence for example. If you look at how they are acting (denial or at least partial denial and lying through their teeth trying to protect their leader and their agendas and their pocket books, many of the evangelical at least, should we be surprised at all that churches stay open, especially when the plate is emptier than usual. Jerks.

  5. Avatar
    dale m

    I see it as Natural Selection at work. I can only smile. This guy wins the Darwin Award. Nevertheless. It is an interesting, if not amusing experiment. Will the really hard core eliminate themselves from the competition?? Is this like snake handling?? If vipers R no threat to true believers, why would a virus be? It’s an ingenious way of weeding out the competition. Self-immolation. They obviously don’t care about their lives or anybody else’s for that matter. High price to pay 4 ignorance …… possibly stupidity. But I’d love to have a front row seat on this one. They will almost certainly become an object lesson 4 everyone else. If they die, evangelicals will sweep this under the carpet. It would be good to record this. It could be useful after this pandemic. A true lesson in life.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I’m glad they did the right thing. I suspect this is a result of two local positive COVID-19 infections being reported in the last 48 hours. The virus has finally arrived to rural northwest Ohio.

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Bruce Gerencser