23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Greetings my friends!
As our community of faith prepares to return to “in person, indoor worship” I desired to share with you a piece of fiction. I imagined myself to be a participant at this coming weekend’s worship celebration. I imagined how I might feel leaving that worship celebration, particularly if my dreams and expectations for the day were unfulfilled. I imagined a letter that I might write to the local newspaper sharing my thoughts and opinions. Please remember…. This is a work of fiction and the thoughts conveyed only belong to my imagination. Also, I would like to implore once again those with high risk factors associated with COVID 19 to please stay at home and not place yourself at risk by attending our indoor worship celebrations.
I never would have thought that I would write a letter to you sharing my experience at what should be a very simple and straight forward church worship! On Sunday I arrived at church, like I have every Sunday of my life, dressed and ready for worship. I pulled into the parking lot and immediately knew something was amiss because only two doors were open to the building.
When I finally found where I was supposed to enter church, a person met me at the door and told me I needed to wear a facemask! Me, imagine that! Who has the right to tell me to wear a facemask! I’m not sick! I’m not even all that worried about getting sick! The person at the door told me this was NON -NEGOTIABLE and so I begrudgingly complied.
As I walked though the door, nobody was there to hand me my bulletin and shake my hand! Instead on a table I saw worship bulletins, and a little glass of grape juice that was sealed. I was told to pick up those items before I headed to the sanctuary.
When I got to the narthex (space behind sanctuary) I saw three baskets, one for each congregation who has come together during this time of pandemic. I could not believe they wanted me to place my offerings in the baskets BEFORE worship even began! What if I did not like the pastor’s sermon? What if the hymns that we were going to sing did not meet my approval? And then… I still cannot get over this…. The person who met me as I was about to go into the sanctuary asked me my name and my phone number!
“You’ve GOT to be kidding!” I thought! “I’ve been coming to this church for 50 years! You don’t know who I am?”
Instead of making a fuss, I simply gave in! I shared my name and my phone number and began to head to “my seat” in the sanctuary when suddenly I was told I had to follow the directions of the usher in front of the sanctuary. I could not believe it! I was not able to sit in the seat that I have been sitting in for 50+ years! What lunacy is this?
Reluctantly I followed the direction of the usher in front of the sanctuary. I was in a pew, all by myself! Nobody sat directly in front of me and nobody sat directly behind me. Seemed to me like this was a waste of space rather than any kind of social distancing.
As I sat, the organ which I have come to love hearing played was in full glory! The cross, the altar, the paint on the walls, were all the same and suddenly I began to feel a little bit more comfortable because once again I was worshipping God!
Everyone was wearing those darn facemasks, even the pastors! The pastor shared with us that we were to always keep our facemasks on, that we were not allowed to sing any of the hymns, and that at the time of passing the peace we couldn’t leave our spaces for fear of violating social distancing. UGH!!!!
When the worship began, it felt a little awkward, but also strangely comforting. The prayers, the music, being in the presence of my friends even though I could not see their faces behind their masks or get close to them, gave me a good feeling.
The prayers, the Holy Scripture, and surprisingly even the sermon seemed to be filled with God’s presence among us.
When it came time for Holy Communion, it was challenging to open those little cups of grape juice with a wafer on top of them… yet, ironically, Communion still felt “holy.” I guess God can get into those elements even within the midst of this pandemic.
Following worship, the usher began to dismiss the congregation from the back of the sanctuary to the front in order that we would not walk past people on our way out of the building. We were told that we should not stay inside the building and that if we stopped to talk to our friends outside that we should remain masked and still practice social distancing!
As I got into my car to head home, I began to reflect on what I just experienced. Yes, it was almost like going to worship in a foreign land and experiencing worship in a completely strange way. Yet… God was there!
God was there among the scattered people across the pews. God was there with all the people who were adorned in facemasks. God was there in God’s Holy Word, the prayers, the sermons, and the music. God was there in the “breaking of the bread and the cup!”
As different as the worship celebration was, I truly enjoyed what has always been constant!
Yes, Jesus once said, “true worshippers will worship and spirit and in truth!” and that’s exactly what we did.
Until next time,
Keep trusting God, keep washing those hands, and be at peace with one another!