Sunday, September 13, 2020

Is it Time to Physically Gather for Worship Again?


Ruth and I are going to church this morning for the first time in six months and the prospect in a little weird. By going to church I don't mean the virtual service the congregation has been experiencing since the abrupt end of in-person worship after the March 15th shut-down because of COVID-19. We will get g in our vehicle and driving to the Trenton United Church building and sit in an uncomfortable pew ( I'm still getting used to pews after 37 years in the pulpit.) 

The congregation today will be sparse, to put it mildly. Attendance is by invitation with a few board members and ushers present, as well as those of us who have been recruited as potential pinch-hitters should Rev. Isaac Mundy not be able to preside along the way. The plan is to resume worship in the sanctuary next week, September 20th, and this is a dress rehearsal of sorts. I will be leading on the 27th because Isaac will be involved with the annual regional meeting and I want to understand the drill. 

Many congregations are not ready or willing to physically gather yet, each assessing their own risk factors, and we'll see how this all unfolds. We know that there have been many virus outbreaks because of worship gatherings in the United States, and at an evangelical healing conference in Edmonton (oh, the irony) but many congregations have been worshiping together for months now without illness. Foolishly, most of  those situations have acted as though God was a lucky charm protecting them from a communicable disease. So much depends on the safety protocols as well as the rate of infection in the region where the services take place.

I'm convinced that not coming together for worship was the faithful choice during those first months of the pandemic, and it may be what we need to do again if there is a resurgence in infection numbers. Yet from the day of Pentecost to the present, through persecution and many other trials and tribulations Christians have joined together to proclaim the Good News. 

This Fall congregations will tentatively be coming together once again, although congregants will look like masked marauders, distance will be carefully maintained, and singing curtailed. Will this feel like worship which celebrates the Christ who is alive in our midst? We'll find out. Say a prayer for us and for pastors and congregational leaders everywhere who are discerning what is best for them.

A footnote: we did attend and even though being part of a congregation of a dozen, and not being able to approach our beloved Trenton grandlads was odd, it was good to be in TUC sanctuary.  Wherever two or three or twelve are gathered is an auspicious biblical number. 


roger said...

Hey if the NFL can allow 17,000 fans into a stadium on opening night, I think having a mask-wearing, socially distant congregation should work.

I agree that shutting virtually everything down for those first few months was essential, but at some point there needs to be a return to a semblance of normalcy. Otherwise mental health issues will outweigh COVID.

I think we're all holding our breath to see what happens over the next few months, with students returning to school and the onset of flu season. We may end up going back to square one again.

David Mundy said...

Holding our collective breath does seem to be the best metaphor these days, for a bunch of reasons.