Thoughts on church worship in the COVID era

Social distancing. It’s a horrible term that conjures up feelings of isolation and loneliness. I much prefer the term ‘physical distancing’ which is about our physical proximity but not a separation of spirit or fellowship.

It’s easy during this time of pandemic to see what we’ve lost. Children miss playing with their friends at school. Adults miss the water-cooler banter at work. We miss seeing different faces up close. We miss the hugs and kisses of family members. Birthday parties. The gym. Going to the movies. Restaurants. Weddings. Even funerals. The list of what we have lost over the last few months is long.

But I’ve noticed something else. We’ve gained something. And while it was something that came from the necessity of physical distancing rules, I hope it’s something that we keep when this pandemic is behind us and the restrictions on meeting are lifted.

God, in his grace, has given us a great gift in this time. He has used this time to sharpen us and guide us to finding new ways to retain contact.

As well as church services on Sunday morning, I’ve been attending the Wednesday morning prayer group each week. And I know many others have been doing the same on Thursday nights as well as with growth groups, prayer triplets, the book club and other initiatives that Megan and the ministry team have created.

We should not see these as stop gap measures, keeping us connected through this time. These are things we can keep to stay in better contact than ever before.

My church’s Monday night prayer group that has been meeting for as long as I’ve been a part of the congregation,. But it’s a huge challenge for my family to be a part of. With kids and a busy travel schedule (usually) an extra night out is not possible if I’m to be part of the ministry God has entrusted to me at home. 

But 30 minutes on a Wednesday morning, with a cup of tea in one hand, is an opportunity to share in fellowship with some brothers and sisters.

There are Sunday mornings when getting to church is challenging. It might be someone in the family is unwell or that a family commitment requires our attention. But being able to watch or listen to the service live through Zoom or Facebook Live lets us retain a connection with our church family. 
It’s not a replacement for meeting with God’s people. But it’s a way of staying connected.

Something I learned as a child at school and have heard countless times since coming to faith as an adult has been resonating with me over the last few weeks.

Matthew 18:20 tells us that “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Even when we get together online, God is with us. Even separated by distance and laws – God is with us.

The church is not a building. We, the people, are the church. And God is with us.