Gov. Beshear, thank you for striving to lead well during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is little doubt that your leadership has prevented the spread of the coronavirus in Kentucky.
Thank you also for your efforts to acknowledge the essential role of churches in the commonwealth. Churches and their leaders, as you know, provide hope and direction through the preaching of God’s word, food and clothing for those in need, compassionate ministry to the sick and grieving, and much, much more.
Thank you also for sharing parts of your own spiritual heritage. I understand that both your grandfather and great-grandfather were Baptist preachers. You mentioned during your campaign for the office of Kentucky’s 63rd governor that they influenced you, “to help the lost, the lonely and the left behind.”
As you are considering phases to reopen the economy in our state, I ask you to remember the approximately 5,000 churches in Kentucky. Of those churches, 2,360 are affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. As you have acknowledged recently in your press briefings, all but one or two churches have been extremely respectful and supportive of your leadership. Most have been offering worship services exclusively online for seven Sundays in a row now and a few others have offered drive-in services following the guidelines you put in place.
These churches and their leaders are now asking when restraints will be lifted that they may return to some sort of in-person gatherings. I would encourage you to remember the leaders of these churches are Christians, followers of Jesus. They model compassionate care in ways that would amaze most people on a daily basis.
These are leaders who have laid down their own plans for their life in order to carry out God’s will to serve people and to, as you mentioned, “help the lost, the lonely and the left behind.”
These leaders are even now making plans to prepare for how their in-person gatherings will look different than they did prior to the quarantine. Some are making plans to sanitize their worship centers before guests re-enter.
Others are measuring their pews to allow for safe social distancing when worshippers return to the building. Many will offer multiple services allowing for fewer people in a room at one time while others will encourage their most at-risk congregants to continue to view services online.
These leaders are talking about how they will collect weekly offerings without passing an offering plate and how they will serve the Lord’s Supper in a way that recognizes our current reality. You will continue to see pastors and church leaders who will be mindful and respectful of your leadership, but they are hoping to hear from you soon. These are smart, talented and creative people. As you begin to loosen restraints they will lead wisely in their unique places of ministry.
Gov. Beshear, as you are looking at reopening the state for business, I ask you to remember the churches.
Dr. Todd Gray is the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.