Like many other people, we have grown weary of these seemingly endless pandemic challenges. Worse yet, our family is compromised by serious medical conditions. This has forced us to reexamine all aspects of our life, particularly the social and spiritual aspects.

Socially, online and outdoor interaction substitutes now for close personal contact, with caution coloring our attendance at any potential event.

As the pandemic has dragged on, our worship options have also dwindled, with online streaming now becoming our go-to option for safety and comfort. Although many houses of worship forged onward or have since resumed with in-person services, it’s a step too far for us; the risk of putting ourselves or friends and family at risk for a fatal illness seems neither prudent nor necessary.

It is not uncommon to see “Faith Over Fear” signs posted near houses of worship. (We’ve also seen one by a funeral parlor – not sure what to make of that one.) Are these “Faith Over Fear” signs meant to encourage or chastise? The medically-compromised faithful may simply find them insulting, a product of (wholly uninformed) assumptions about the medical challenges and spiritual fitness of others. Such slogans are, at best, very presumptuous. Personally, we’ve found them not at all helpful in navigating our own faith journey.

Free will would seem to be a cornerstone of anyone’s faith, including the freedom to set aside contemporary health guidance or alternatively to examine such guidance critically and incorporate it selectively based on your own personal beliefs, medical vulnerabilities, and life experience. Obviously, these choices become much more difficult when your personal actions, or non-actions, have the potential to harm others. But these are the challenges before us all.

One abiding principle in our family is you can’t complain unless you have a solution to offer. So here’s one: outdoor church.

In the past we have occasionally participated in outdoor church services in church parking lots with hundreds of other like-minded worshipers, sometimes while sitting on lawn chairs or at other times sitting in our vehicles during inclement weather. Such services were broadcast over a loudspeaker system as well as over our car radios. The services hit all the marks – light on fellowship but heavy on music, message and reflection. Plus, we could still pass the hat/basket.

Missing were the conscious and unconscious decision-making processes of masking, social distancing, handshaking, hugging etc. We were free to focus on the message and services, which was very welcome and comforting.

Such outdoor services are curiously absent in the Dunnellon area. Perhaps we are the exception in desiring such an option, yet lagging church attendance would suggest otherwise. With our moderate weather, and often stunningly beautiful and inspiring mornings, they seem a natural fit which could be enjoyed by all.

Dan Sobieck


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