It was so great to see so many of you in person on Christmas Eve and on Epiphany Sunday for Communion distribution on the front steps of the church. And I know that those of you who couldn’t be there in person were with us in spirit. The Communion distribution was very successful, and everyone was wonderful about wearing masks, stepping away to receive the wafer, and keeping distant from each other. Nevertheless we also got to chat together, share news, and talk about our Christmases. It felt very safe and I was impressed with everyone’s positive attitude and care for each other. We are definitely going to continue distributing Communion on the first Sunday of each month until we can return to regular worship. Going forward we may adjust the time slightly to 10:45am to 11:15am as that seems to be the most convenient time frame for everyone.
Since it seems like it will be a few more months before we’re able to gather for in-person worship, I have been thinking about all the ways you have been telling me that you have been worshipping at home on Sunday mornings. Some have posted wonderful photos on social media of how they participated in our Christmas and other worship services. It is not easy feeling “participatory” in an online service. It takes intentionality and effort. But you all have come up with creative ways for doing so. A few things I’ve heard about and noticed:
- Putting the service on a big screen like the TV
- Setting up candles near your screen, and lighting them during worship
- Not using the same laptop or computer that you do school or work on (if possible) so it feels like a change from school or work
- Bringing your screen outdoors (in good weather) to worship in the backyard or patio
- Enjoying being able to wear PJs and refill your coffee during church – why not!
- Having the family pet with you so you can worship with furry family members, too
- Using a second screen (like a phone) to see the bulletin instead of trying to have both bulletin and service on the same screen
- Printing out the bulletin beforehand instead of trying to look at it on a screen
- Using a print copy of the hymnal and/or prayer book instead of the bulletin
- Singing along with the hymns and music at home (no one can hear if you’re off key!)
- Saying the words of prayers out loud along with the lay readers and clergy
- Standing up and kneeling at the appropriate points of the service instead of sitting for the whole service so it feels more participatory
- Watching the service on Facebook so you can chat with other church friends, comment on the sermon, or add prayers during the Prayers of the People
- Volunteering to read a lesson, acolyte, or be on the tech team to be part of leading worship
All of these seem like great ideas to me. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have, especially for engaging kids. Please send them my way and I’ll share them in a future letter.
One practice that has helped me on my end is to set up a very big TV screen in front of the pulpit in church, on which I can see the faces of the Liturgy Team members and acolytes for that day’s service (since they are in the worship leader’s Zoom meeting that we are broadcasting). It helps me to feel like I’m preaching to people and not to the camera – although I know you all are out there! I also love singing the hymns out loud along with the choir’s recordings. Thankfully the tech team mutes me so you can’t hear when I’m off key! It’s a bit weird to be singing alone in the church, but always feels good to worship through music.
One of my favorite parts of worship has become watching the acolytes light the candles. I love seeing into the homes of our community members, how the acolytes have chosen to set up their candles, and the cross they have chosen that is meaningful to their family. Their dedication to this ministry, and the reverence and seriousness that is evident, is inspiring.
While worship is definitely different these days, it still brings us together, nourishes us with God’s word, and reminds us of our identity as God’s people. So I’ll “see” you in church on Sunday!