Friday, September 11 marks 6 months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO. It will also be the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States. I think it is safe to say that we are all feeling the emotional and spiritual impact.
For all of us who are Christians (i.e. part of the “Body of Christ”) one of the reasons we are feeling the weight of such detachment is because we have not been allowed to meet together for worship in our “holy places” and sanctuaries since Sunday, March 15th.
In light of where we find ourselves, we are faced with the challenge of how to build spiritual endurance for the long haul. How can we enhance spiritual health even in the midst of this world wide scourge? One of the ways, which is now available to us, is through live and in person worship in our sanctuary.
Good News! Beginning Sunday, September 20, we’re having worship service inside, with limitations (see below).
Some of you might wonder why we should be so concerned about getting back together for worship in person in our sanctuary, when for many, the Live Streaming experience has been working just fine? Why is coming back to inside church so important after COVID-19?
No doubt, it will feel different when we gather in our sanctuary. Our sensitivities are heightened. And we have to endure restrictions and protocols that are awkward, inconvenient, and frustrating. Then, no matter how safe we make it, some of our church family still can’t come or don’t feel comfortable coming.
With all this in mind, some may feel tempted to not come at all. If our restored gatherings are so different and restricted, our online options so available and convenient, and our physical presence a genuine vulnerability, why should we even meet in person inside the sanctuary?
This is a valid question but as you consider making your decision to come or not to come, please reflect on the importance of gatherings. And unless you are someone who needs to stay home for health reasons, please consider the following reasons for meeting in person inside:
(Adapted from “10 Reasons to Come Back to Church” by David Gunderson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
- We each are embodied souls. We need each other. We’re not just pixels and screennames, headshots on Zoom and Facetime. We’re human beings designed to see and heart and taste and touch and feel our way through the physical world God made. We have been blessed with technology and the online options that have been available to us. But the limitations are part and parcel that which have contributed to our soul-fatigue. We are offered the opportunity to gather in a designated place that represents the Holiness of a Loving and Person God. Sunday morning worship brings us together into His presence.
- Our church is a body. We are knitted together. We not independent but interdependent. Our spirituality, embodied with gifts of the Spirit, are like eyes and hands and feet that each play their part in the body’s mission. At a distance, we’re still Christ’s body, but like any healthy body, we should not want to stay “dislocated.”
- The Holy Spirit draws us together. As the body of Christ, we each are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. And as part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit draws us toward unity. Even though we have been involuntarily separated due to COVID-19, we feel tension and disconnected. The Spirit within us yearns for us to be together, in the presence of the Father. Being able to be together in the sanctuary can help remind us of this holy exchange.
- We are a family. God is our Father. We are all siblings, part of God’s diverse and holy household. We have brothers and sisters from different earthly fathers and mothers and God does not intend or desire for us to be separated permanently. Healthy families live together, laugh together, cry together, and help each other. We must be faithful to lean into this reality that we are meant to be with one another, loving and lifting the other and our inside worship helps to facilitate this activity.
- Hearing the Word preached and the reading of scripture is essential. We have a lot of options at our fingertips through social media and podcast and online seminars but we must remember that hearing the Word preached live is a sacred moment. When we hear God’s Word taught in a congregational setting, we resonate not only with our Risen Lord and His message of life and grace, but with each other, in our humanness and sacredness.
- Singing worship songs is like nothing else. There really is nothing on earth life congregational singing in a sanctuary (whether it be the sanctuary of God’s beautiful creation or in the sacred holy space of a church sanctuary). Singing together allows us to express our emotions to God (and we have a lot of emotions right now). And in our singing, not only to we glorify God, we encourage one another.
- We have a job to do and we need to be “spurred on.” The church gathered is an opportunity for all believers to be reinforced in their faith and in the calling that we all have to do Kingdom work by using our spiritual gifts. Meeting together in the sanctuary weekly for worship enjoins us to the holy task of the church.
- Our gathering together is our witness. Each week our friends and neighbors and coworkers and families walk through the same broken world we do, but many without the hope that we have in Christ Jesus or without the roadmap of God’s Holy Word. As we gather to worship in the sanctuary, our testimony, which is lived out when we leave the premises, restores to the world “out there” grace and peace and joy and love which is the fulfilment of who we are as followers of Christ.
- Greetings change lives. All over the New Testament, the writers greet the churches and ask fellow believers to greet one another “in Christ.” These greetings are not an after thought, they are symbols of the reconciling power of the gospel and it fosters the “family dynamic” that is present in our congregation. Our greeting “in Christ” really is central to what makes the church the church. We are unified around the Gospel of Jesus Christ and extend love and peace and grace to our brothers and sister in the faith. Proximity makes this important activity of Christian faith possible and meaningful.
We know the undeniable truth that we can worship in spirit and in truth where ever we are, even if under a COVID-19 quarantine with all the social distancing protocols. We do not need to meet together in order to commune with the Holy Spirit and worship our Heavenly Father and honor our Lord and Savior. We know that He is present to receive our worship and to dispense His grace whenever He is of the mind to do so. But, lest we find contentment in isolation, it is imperative that the believer, all believers, need and pursue communion with the Spirit and with one another. It is our statement of faith.