We’re living in quite an unusual reality right now, aren’t we?
So many of the routine, everyday things in our lives, like going to work, kids going to school, and popping down to the shop to get Friday night fish and chips, are suddenly off limits. We’re realising just how much we’ve been taking for granted.
One of the things that I’ve been missing the most over the past few weeks has been gathering in a room with my church family and singing in worship together. The sound of our voices rising, the sense of collective declaration and prayer, the joy in people’s faces. I miss corporate worship so bad.
I know that the Church is about God’s people, the Body of Christ, and not buildings. I know that the Church is everywhere because the Holy Spirit is everywhere. But am I still allowed to miss us all gathering together in one place with one aim?
We’re not all visionary thinkers
Everyone is coping differently with the various lockdown measures around the world, and this includes our feelings about how we do church. Some people are taking the opportunity to reflect and reconsider how we do things to reach out to people and share the gospel, and this is awesome! We totally need visionary thinkers like this!
But for others, this lockdown season just really sucks. People are feeling lonely and isolated, they’re bored out of their minds, and they just want to see their church friends and family again for some peace and comfort.
If I’m honest, I sit a lot more in this camp than the visionary thinkers, and you know what? That’s ok. After all, the Church is meant to gather. God designed us for community, and the Body of Christ is one of the greatest communities of all.
While connecting online is amazing (can you imagine what lockdown would be like without video calls?), there’s something actually sacred about meeting face-to-face to encourage, challenge and worship. The scriptures contain countless stories of people gathering at the temple, and the Psalms are full of invitations to come and worship God together – is it any wonder that I miss it?
Social media guilt
At the start of New Zealand’s lockdown period, I spent a lot of time on social media and it was surprisingly good for me. There was a lot of encouraging and thought-provoking content being shared – scriptures, prayers, artwork, and blogs on different ways to think about God, life and faith during this season.
But I’ve noticed a shift in my mindset over the past few days. I’ve been reading more and more about how people are so excited by this season in the Church and how different it looks. I’ve seen posts about how we have an opportunity to reimagine what church looks like in the twenty-first century. I’ve heard people share about the new possibilities for greater reach of the gospel message.
Don’t get me wrong, all of this is good stuff. The Church does need to be shaken every now and then and nudged in a new direction. But right now, reading all those posts is just making me feel guilty. It makes me feel guilty for not having the same sense of excitement.
I don’t want to think about an exciting future right now. I kind of just want to lament for the things we’ve lost, for the people who are hurting, and for the chaos that this virus is causing in our world. Am I a bad Christian for feeling this way? Absolutely not.
It’s ok to not like this season. It’s ok to acknowledge that you miss church services on a Sunday morning. It’s ok to cry out to God in a posture of lament.
The beauty of life though is that we do move in seasons. Perhaps this pandemic and lockdown is putting you in a winter season right now where everything feels lifeless, or perhaps it’s putting you in a spring season where you can see new potential for the church.
The amazing thing is that either season is completely valid and good, because it’s simply that – a season. Life will move on eventually and we’ll move into a new season, just as the cycle of creation moves on.
So, if this is a winter season for you, don’t fight it. Sit in it, lament in it, and then just ride it out. A time will come for hope to blossom again, and perhaps tomorrow God will start to cultivate a spring within you.
But for today, it’s ok for me to really miss church.
Rebecca Howan is from Wellington, New Zealand, where she works as an Executive Assistant in the humanitarian sector. She worships and serves at The Salvation Army, and is passionate about music, travelling the world and building community.
You can read Rebecca’s previous columns at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rebecca-howan.html