Every conversation that I have with people these days begins with at least ten minutes focused on the Coronavirus. It is the subject that dominates our newscasts. I just looked through today’s newspaper (Yes, we still get one delivered to our house) and there were sixteen articles related to COVID-19. On the other hand there is now one page devoted to sports and another page devoted to entertainment. Often even those pages carry stories related to the virus.
I just took a few minutes to visit the CNN online site and of the 28 articles in the top part of the web site, 19 of them were on some aspect of Coronavirus. There is no question that this is the news that people want to hear about.
I thought that this morning I would focus on a couple of positive things that have come out of this for our church. I need to stress though that while some positive things have happened, we will all be glad when the rules can safely be relaxed and we can meet in person once again.
A deeper appreciation for each other
For the first two Sundays of the shutdown, we didn’t meet. We encouraged everyone to watch a different service on line or on television or wherever they might find something where they could enjoy worshipping. Then we took a crash course in operating Zoom so that by the third week, we could hold our own service. We have been holding Zoom services ever since.
That first Sunday was an experience. We tried doing some singing which was nothing short of disaster. We struggled getting everyone on line. We muted people when we didn’t want them muted and unmuted them when we wanted quiet. None of us are technologically gifted and so everything was trial and error.
The interesting things was that it didn’t matter. We hadn’t seen each other for three weeks and we just wanted to see everyone face-to-face. We wanted to talk with each other and see the smile on the other person’s face. We wanted to be able to hear about what was happening to the other members of the family and have them ask about us in return.
We all look forward to the day when we are back in our building and able to shake hands or give each other a hug. I do think though that when that happens we will come back together with a deeper appreciation for each other than we have ever had before. I don’t think that I will ever look at anyone in the church in quite the same way again. They are my family and they have been away and I have missed them. I will never take anyone’s presence in the service for granted again.
The building isn’t the church but it is part of the church’s identity
If you are like me you have heard the truth that the building isn’t the church a hundred times since this period of isolation started. I know that the church is the people who are part of the family. I realize that it is important to understand that fact and to rejoice that the family is still there for each other.
Having said that though the building does matter. It is full of memories of special services, baptisms, times of laughter, and just plain fun. Some people in the congregation were married there and others buried loved one from it. There are memories of pastors, past and present, who served there.
We should never put the building at the top of the list of things that matter in the church family but we shouldn’t write it off either. I will be so happy when we are able to meet corporately in our own building again but in the mean time I am going to enjoy my family in other ways.
It is okay to miss your building. Just don’t let that spoil your experience of the church during this period of being separated from it.
A closing challenge
Take a few minutes each day and think of some way in which you can serve your church family. It might be a phone call to see how someone is doing. It might be taking food to a senior who can’t get to the store. It might be encouraging a front-line worker who is living each day with the pressure of being on the front lines. It could be any one of a hundred different ways but if everyone did that think of the impact it would have.
Some time ago I was asked if I would write an academic article on the small church to be published on the Northwestern Institute for Ministry Education Research which is connected with Northwest Baptist Seminary. If you have any interest in looking at it, here is the link to it.