Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam doesn't think it's necessary to gather together as a church body to worship Christ if there's a virus going around - despite Biblical mandates to gather together as believers, and despite that deeply held belief shared by millions of Christians around the world.
"This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions," Northam began at a press conference Thursday, where he urged Virginians to distance themselves from others over the holidays to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
"But this year, we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t need to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers," Northam said.
Northam called for Virginia churches to hold worship services outside (in the mid-Atlantic in late December) or on entirely online, saying those methods are “still worship.” He also advised church-goers to worship with masks on.
Fortunately for believers who find practicing corporate worship to be as fundamental as going to the grocery store or the doctor's office, Northam's guidance fell short of a mandate due to a recent Supreme Court ruling against such restrictions in New York, where the state government sought to ban all corporate worship services.
In a similar outcome, a federal court that ruled in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. after the church sued the city over Mayor Muriel Bowser's ban on congregational gatherings, Judge Trevor N. McFadden wrote in his ruling that the city's ban on corporate worship services "ignores the church’s sincerely held (and undisputed) belief about the theological importance of gathering in person as a full congregation,” writing that "It is for the Church, not the District or this Court, to define for itself the meaning of “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”