With a message of “Love your neighbour as yourself,” a Mennonite Church B.C. pastor reached a wide audience on the radio with a message about in-person church gatherings.
On a recent call-in talk show on radio station CKNW, broadcast from Vancouver across the Fraser Valley, senior pastor Frank Berto, of Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Surrey, was interviewed by the show hosts, Lynda Steele and Eric Chapman. In response to three area churches proclaiming their right to meet in person, despite orders to the contrary from the provincial health ministry, Berto expressed his belief that in-person gatherings were the wrong thing to do during a pandemic, saying he was “embarrassed” by those congregations who cited their right to meet under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Which charter of rights is first and foremost for Christians?” he asked. “Love your neighbours as yourself. I do funerals all the time, so how could I look a family in the face and say ‘Your right to gather trumps their [possible COVID patients] their right to life?’”
Berto added that suspending in-person worship services did not mean closing the church and that giving up meeting for a few months was small sacrifice. “Church actually refers to people, not a building,” he said. “If I can care for my neighbour by briefly shutting down gatherings in the building and going to online meetings, what a wonderful thing!”
Concluding his comments, Berto said he hoped that the Holy Spirit would change people’s hearts: “Jesus was the son of God; he gave up his right to come down and teach us how to live. How can Christians do anything less?”
In response, Chapman told Berto, “Pastor, you give me goosebumps. You make me want to go to church!”
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A COVID-19 commandment