The Week That Would Have Been

If not for the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19, this week, July 21-24, 2020, the Church of God would be in the midst of the 78th International General Assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana.

By Cameron Fisher

Like almost 100% of the events that involved large gatherings of people under one roof, the Assembly fell victim to having to be postponed. The National Basketball Association shut down in mid-season. The Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed until the summer of 2021. And Major League Baseball shortened their season to just 60 games, starting back this week playing to empty stadiums. In between these more high profile decisions have been thousands of graduation ceremonies, conferences, summer camps, and weekly church services that have had to be altered to come up with a new normal.

On April 21, during a Zoom conference with the Church of God International Executive Council, the group of Church leaders came to the difficult decision to postpone the General Assembly to the year 2022. While there was debate on both sides of the issue, hindsight reveals it is clear that the decision to not conduct the General Assembly this week was prudent and the best decision under the circumstances.

While no one could predict the state of the world three months ahead, had the Council voted to proceed with the Assembly this week, restrictions still in place today would have negatively impacted the event, including the fact that the virus is still running rampant in several parts of the world, particularly the United States. Travel from certain states to others requires a 14-day self-quarantine. Airlines have reduced their on-board capacity and number of available flights. Restaurants in the Indianapolis area are only allowing 75% capacity. Ministries and companies that would have participated in the exhibit area have their own set of self-imposed restrictions on travel, not to mention economic hardships.

Perhaps most importantly, transmission of the virus remains a concern, particularly among the elderly such as our retired ministers and those over 65, one of the largest groups that attend a General Assembly. To combat these concerns, no doubt crowd control measures would have had to be implemented, such as required masks and social distancing meaning at least one chair between each delegate, effectively reducing the crowd capacity by half. Hugs, handshakes, and group fellowship gatherings – items at the heart of what makes a General Assembly special – would have been greatly hampered with a pall that would have hung over the entire week.

As we ponder this week that is not happening, we pray for continued divine guidance for our leaders and look forward to when we can gather yet again under circumstances that will be safe, productive, and move the Church of God forward into its greatest days.

In the meantime, please tune in every night this week to view services from the 2018 General Assembly during the “Encores of Praise” series, hosted by General Overseer Tim Hill. Monday night’s presentation had a consistent viewership of over 1,600, and following the Tuesday night service the reach around the globe was over 90,000. The series begins at 7:00 p.m. EST through this Friday and is available on the Church of God YouTube channel and Facebook (@COGHQ).

–Cameron Fisher serves as Coordinator of Communications at the Church of God International Offices.

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