Our church didn’t meet—in person—last month.
It was the same at churches I heard about, an impression backed up by this story. The national survey reported 90 percent of Protestant pastors said their churches didn’t meet in person in April.
Of course, neither did most Catholic parishes, including one a block from our church that helps support our church’s pantry with food and monetary donations.
However, to weep and lament this lack of personal gathering is to miss a fascinating story happening at the same time: our members seem to be forming closer bonds despite the distance.
A Heartwarming Moment
One indication of that was our heartwarming Easter service. Prior to the sermon, we saw seven cell phone videos of different families gathered together, with one or more folks reading New Testament scriptures.
A particularly amusing highlight came after one father read a passage and at the end of it his little girl proclaimed Jesus was “King of the Juices.”
When you think about it, since our church uses grape juice for Communion, that does make Him the King of the Juices.
It wasn’t just the girl’s mis-speaking that was memorable. I found all the readings to be a most heartwarming and touching experience.
It was the kind of moment that never would have happened if we’d only had an in-person gathering that day.
Just as stirring were our offering totals for April, which were higher than during March.
This, despite the pandemic and general economic wipeout that saw a $192 million shortfall in our state’s estimated sales and income tax receipts.
Staying in Touch Blessings
Nor has our church failed to continue efforts for people to stay in touch.
Our women’s group, which ordinarily meets the first and second Tuesday evenings of the month, adjusted its schedule for a late April, Thursday drive-in gathering.
We happened to be at the church that night to tape boxes used to hand out food, and tackle other assorted tasks at our pantry.
When we were leaving, we noticed vehicles ringing the parking lot. Some women were sitting on tailgates and others in bag chairs, all practicing social distancing while enjoying each other’s company.
The elders have divided up the church’s member/visitor list, taking a different group so we aren’t calling the same people every week. We’re checking to see how people are doing and taking prayer requests.
Not only have I “met” people I never had in person, in these phone conversations I’m getting to know some folks better than during Sunday morning services.
Not Going Back
With various facilities reopening at different intervals and so much uncertainty in the air, our church didn’t rush to start holding in-person services again. We plan to resume June 7.
Facebook Live will continue too. There has been such an enthusiastic reception to this option that our pastors said services will post on Facebook even after restrictions have eased.
No matter how this all goes, I don’t think we should yearn for a return to “normal.”
As our pastor has preached, the pandemic has exposed how much we have been tied to the way things are instead of relying on God.
So, maybe there is a blessing in pausing from our nation’s mad-dash, 24/7, pre-pandemic pace. Maybe God is using this event to show us we all need to slow down and consider what matters most.
The Lord has certainly taught us the value of assembling together.