Separate, Don’t Isolate

Stay connected through internet and social media

By Norris Burkes
May 2020

These days, I’m opening scores of emails from companies announcing their new COVID-19 policies. Grocery stores tell me they are disinfecting carts. Car rental companies proclaim their vehicles are safe to rent and schools promise to operate online.

They are all good polices, but the pandemic plan I prefer to follow is “Let’s Thrive, Not Just Survive.”

If it sounds familiar, you probably know that I self-plagiarized the policy from the book I wrote in 2015 called, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.”

If you depend on practicing your faith by assembling in person, you’re probably finding it frustratingly hard to follow the biblical admonition to “not give up meeting together.”

A news story in my local Sacramento Bee says health officials report that “Nearly a third of Sacramento County’s coronavirus cases are connected to churches.” That’s 100 out of 316. Worse yet, 71 infections come from one church whose congregants have continued to hold in-person fellowship meetings.

I get it, pastors. I miss assembly too. I miss my pastor’s wife greeting us with her warm hug and infective smile. I thrive on the real conversations I have with the men in the foyer. I feel the pull of grace in the music. I know the heart tug to seek forgiveness during communion. I need to hear what the minister has prepared during the week.

But pastors, please—practicing faith needn’t involve endangering lives. That’s why I try to emphasize “separate” instead of “isolate.” Keep your social distance, but don’t isolate yourself from human contact.

In some ways, this coronavirus intersects a convenient time. The internet, television and social media make it easier to connect. As Christianity Today recently put it, “When God closes a church door, He opens a browser window.”

In times such as these, we are able to consider online meetings. These online meetings will be the centerpiece of faith practice in the weeks to come. That’s because, as I’ve said for nearly 20 years in this column, faith has to work in everyday life. It must interact with people or it doesn’t work at all. And right now, quarantine has become our everyday existence.

I’ve found a few resources to help sharpen your skills.

Barry Smith, my former pastor, has been doing internet church for years with 5-minute sermons in the “You Choose Community” at The website promises a choice of when and where you do church. Barry’s views tip more conservative than mine, but I trust his heart.

My wife, Becky, enjoys the Bible Project at The site has a wide variety of biblical word analyses and historical book studies, all done with narrated, highly artistic drawings. I especially recommend them to those who appreciate objectivity.
If you do an internet search for “online churches,” you’ll find scores of opportunities.

Finally, no matter what faith you profess, hear this encouragement from the New Testament book of Hebrews: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess …. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together … but encouraging one another….”

In the midst of the flood of company policies, Missy at Delta Airlines tweeted me some great news. She issued a refund for the Paris tickets Becky and I bought to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

It seems the best policy is to still stay inside just a bit longer.

Norris Burkes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit


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