Lection Connection

August 2, 2020: Face to Face

From Fraser Macnaughton


For most Westerners, it is a weird notion indeed these days to meet someone face to face when both people have to cover half their faces with a mask! In many Asian countries, however, wearing a face covering in public has been the norm for many years. For many Muslim women, too, covering all or part of the face in public has long been part of Islamic culture.


So it may be it that many are bemused at the furor in some Western nations about the efficacy or desirability of having mandatory face coverings imposed in order to stem the infection rates of Covid-19. In England, the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticized for “confusing” public health messaging on the issue. Public health experts and business leaders in the retail sector have been urging the government to look again at making face masks mandatory to encourage people back to the high street and to stop the spread of coronavirus. When he was asked specifically whether face coverings would be made mandatory in shops in England, as they already are on public transport, the prime minister said the government was considering what “tools of enforcement” would be used to increase compliance. But as recently as April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was actively discouraging the wearing of masks, suggesting that they were ineffective and that public uptake of the practice would create shortages for NHS workers.


However, it appears that scientific advice seems to be changing as medics increase their understanding of the virus and then alter their views accordingly, prompting Mr. Johnson to remark, “The scientific evidence of face coverings, and the importance of stopping aerosol droplets; that’s been growing so I do think that in shops it is very important to wear a face covering.”


Like President Trump, Prime Minister Johnson was seen in public recently wearing a face mask for the first time. But some influential right-wingers close to the governing Conservative party have complained about proposed mandatory mask-wearing and other lockdown measures. Some unionist Tories view the move as a win for Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. They see this as one of a handful of times the U.K. government has followed the Scottish government, causing some to worry that this indirectly implies that Sturgeon is the more competent leader.


Explore…Genesis 32:22–31

  • To what extent do you feel the mandatory wearing of face masks de-humanizes us?
  • Can you think of ways in which the expression “face to face”’ can be meaningful when it is not a physical reality?
  • What experiences of online worship (not face-to-face) do you think can evolve into the future?
  • How might your faith community interact more closely with those with whom you have been at a distance?



The old story tells us that Jacob got really close up and personal with God. In these times of physical distancing, when all we want is to be face to face with each other, may we delve deep into our souls and discover again what Jesus meant when he said, “The realm of God is within you.”


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