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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Northern Virginia Houses of Worship Will be Open, But Not Their Buildings
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Northern Virginia Houses of Worship Will be Open, But Not Their Buildings

The State of Virginia and Fairfax County have told us that we can reopen our houses of worship at fifty percent capacity. We will not be doing so at this time.

Faith leaders bear a special duty. Whether at a mosque for Friday prayers, a synagogue for Shabbat, or services in churches or temples, worship spaces crowded with loving song and prayer present a dangerous risk. We urge everyone to follow the lead of public health officials, who overwhelmingly urge people to continue maintaining social distance. Faith institutions can demonstrate leadership and set an example of love and care for our communities.

As local clergy in Reston, Herndon, and Fairfax, we long to gather in our sacred spaces. We mourn the loss of in-person ritual, fellowship and music. But we are continuing to serve our congregations online. We are convinced that our faiths require us to protect each other’s well-being by refraining from gathering in person at this time.

Rather than putting lives at risk, let us instead protect the health and the economic security of everyone in our community. Each and every person is precious. The time has come to build a society that honors the call to justice and enables life to flourish. We must strongly advocate for economic recovery measures that extend to all -- including lower-wage workers, people who have lost jobs, immigrants, uninsured people, seniors, people who are incarcerated and small business owners. Exclusion is inexcusable.

Our faiths are bigger than any building. Drawing strength from that faith, we mourn our dead and commit to action. Acting in a spirit of love and an ethic of protecting the health of all is the true way to serve the divine and to love our neighbor.

Our buildings may be closed but our work as communities of faith goes on.

Rev. Tom Berlin, Floris United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner, Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston

Rev. Russell Heiland, Unity of Fairfax

Rabbi Michael Holzman, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation

Rev. Dr. Marcus L. Leathers, United Christian Parish

Rev. Rebecca Messman, Trinity Presbyterian Church,

Rev. David Miller, Unitarian Universalist Church in Fairfax

Rev. Barbara Miner, Floris United Methodist Church

Rev. Michelle L. Nickens, Washington Plaza Baptist Church

Rev. Bob Riggles, Floris United Methodist Church

Rev. Stephen Smith-Cobbs, Trinity Presbyterian Church

Rev. Rob Vaughn, Community of Faith United Methodist Church

Rabbi Jessica Wainer, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation

Rev. Tim Ward, Restoration Church Reston