Brothers and Sisters,
The last few weeks have brought changes to our normal lives that until now only Hollywood had imagined. New phrases like “social distancing” and “self quarantining” are now common place. In the midst of that, Grace Church has to figure out a new “normal” for worship, bible studies, and a life together.
Complicating this for me is my belief that when Jesus ate with the disciples in the upper room and gave them a new commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”, he was making the shared life essential. I wholeheartedly believe Christians are to gather to pray, sign, learn, wash one another’s feet literally and metaphorically, to care for each other, and to bless each other and God.
But, how do we do that in the midst of a pandemic?
The good news is that answers abound. Some churches have turned to “Drive-in services” where Christians gather, park and participate the best they can from their cars. Though this could practically meet some of our needs to be apart from each other, theologically it’s problematic. Our worship is highly participatory. We process. We kneel. We read the Word aloud to one another. We exchange the peace, not as an act of greeting but as a sign of reconciliation between each other. None of these are trivial or superfluous actions. Each one should lead us to a deeper connectedness with Jesus. To give these up in favor of sitting in our cars isn’t how I believe we were ever designed - even in crisis - to experience the greatness of our King. Additionally, even if I put the theological concerns on hold, we pragmatically don’t have the space on campus to achieve such a thing. Our campus is wonderfully close together and beautifully tightly knit. We simple don’t have the orientation for a “drive-in service”.
Another answer some churches have turned to is “Drive-thru communion” where the host is administered to communicates car-by-car. Again, it is possible pragmatically, though I have serious concerns about passing germs from car to car. However, my bigger concern is theological. Do we come to church simply for the body and blood of Christ? Is that the sum of who we are and what we do in our time together? I pray not. As protestant Christians, we believe in the equal weight of the Word and the Sacrament, therefore to preference ourselves towards one or the other is a misunderstanding of who God is and what communion does in and for us. Communion is exceptionally important to me as a Christian and priest. I want to do it at every service we have - Holy Eucharists, Weddings, Funerals - because it is always the right response to hearing God’s Word read and explained. But to do it alone is also a mistake and a misunderstanding of what God had in mind when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Going forward, we are looking at every option. I have unhappily settled on a mixture of recorded and live streaming service options. I am not “comfortable” with my choice. I believe it is insufficient and inadequate. It is not a "poor substitute" for Church. It is no substitute at all. And yet, I recognize that it is something and therefore worth having and doing. For the safety of all, we can not meet. I pray without ceasing that this ends as quickly and miraculously as possible. I want to give all the glory to God for saving us and protecting the world. I know he’s already doing that and I want everyone to know it. So for now, we will use the resources we can muster to worship the best we can.
I’m praying for you. Please pray that God use these meager efforts to bless his Name and grow his Kingdom.
In Love, Prayer and Charity,