Statement made by Rev. Raul Ruiz, President
of the NJCLPM
(New Jersey Coalition of Pastors an Ministers has over 400 members
Representing over 47,000 congregants statewide)
Jersey City, Saturday, May 23rd- Yesterday, in response to the statement made by President Trump, many called us to find out if the churches could be opened. This is our position:
First of all, churches have NEVER been closed. Our buildings have been closed to large group activities, but churches have always been open for brothers and sisters (10 or less) to come and pray or receive counseling. Furthermore, we have never stopped ministering; whether it be providing food for the community, bringing resources, financial assistance for our members and delivering the Word via internet with a streaming service.
While the United States Constitution guarantees the RIGHT TO WORSHIP and the RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE, we the people do not have the A RIGHT TO PUT OTHERS AT RISK.
Second, although the building has had restrictions, IT HAS NOT BEEN BECAUSE THIS IS A PERSECUTION of the church, but a measure of protection for all, and we must take it as such. Our government leaders have been trying to respond to the common good, and still are. Yesterday, Friday, May 22, 1,394 infected and 146 dead were reported. That is only yesterday; the total of those infected is 152,719, and the total of deaths 10,985. As you can see, the numbers, although they have decreased, are still high, and we must remember that these are more than numbers, they are people with families, dreams and many aspirations. As long as people remain infected and dying at this rate, it is not wise to open, that is what the state government is telling us.
Third, this opening of buildings IS NOT SOMETHING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS THE RIGHT TO DO. This corresponds to the state and municipal government, and currently the executive order of Governor Phil Murphy is still in force. The confusion comes because in many Latin American countries, the president is in control, but in this country, each state decides and Governor Phil Murphy has not changed the order.
Fourth, we have to be aware that the virus is NOT GONE. There is still no vaccine or treatment for this disease. Therefore opening is exposing our people to the same dangers of 10 weeks ago. It is clear that as Latinos we are hungry for communion and fellowship; we want to be together, but given the present reality, we still won’t be able to touch each other — much less embrace — and even singing will produce an increased risk.
Finally, we know that the economic pressures are many since congregants are not tithing and/or bringing offerings as when we were physically in the church, but we are people of faith and not of business. Our faith is what should decide when and how to open and not our economy or finances. Remember that the Bible tells us that “we cannot serve God and riches,” we only serve Him and trust only Him. Keep in mind that our greatest wealth is people, our children, our elders, and the men and women who unite each Sunday to proclaim the Christ who brought us salvation.
The risk of opening this week is significant; in addition to that, as we said before, it is against the law. A clear and well-detailed plan must be drawn up, so that we minimize exposure to our members and visitors as much as possible, and at the same time offer peace of mind and hope.
In a statement made this morning, Governor Phil Murphy said that he wants to move forward, but “do it intelligently.” We cannot do less. Our enthusiasm has to be aligned with our common sense. I invite you to pray, and to prepare a plan for your congregations and churches so that when they give the order, we are ready to start.
Revered Raúl Ruiz