Back to church

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I miss church. This is probably the longest I’ve experienced not being able to go to church.

Recently my wife and I were playing worship music from YouTube and I found myself longing to be singing in a congregation, worshipping together again. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to hug my friends and shake hands and worship together while catching up.

So, with a number of our Pacific countries planning or starting to relax lockdown laws, here are some important things I hope we can remember as we start being able to meet with our scattered church family.

During these COVID-19 lockdowns, it has been encouraging to see the creative and innovative ways that people are doing church—like the historic SPD-wide service that’s planned for next Sabbath (May 22-23). COVID-19 has pushed the church to be creative and innovative. We’ve been given an opportunity to change the way we “do” church, more quickly than we ever have before. I hope that this spirit of innovation continues after we are meeting together again.

I hope that we come out of this with more empathy—knowing what it’s like to be isolated, we must make more of an effort to reach out to the shut-ins, the elderly, our single neighbours, the disabled, those with chronic illness, those who feel isolated when lockdowns aren’t in place. I hope we can emphasise opportunities to connect and continue to keep open the channels of communication we’ve opened as the corporate Church—broadcast, print and online. [pullquote]

While a good sermon is important, it isn’t the whole church service. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sermon and when I’m in the right frame of mind I can even watch a sermon on the internet. But just broadcasting a message or sermon online I’ve found less helpful during this time than a more personal meeting over Zoom—praying together, seeing church family, answering questions. We can take some of these lessons on interactivity into our services, they can benefit by becoming less homiletical and more personable. This shift would certainly benefit our children.

Don’t take it for granted. The community we belong to is wonderful, supportive and varied, and we’ve had a small taste of what it’s like when that is taken away from us. There are two points we can take away from this. Let’s not be consumers but be involved. And, let’s once again focus on inviting people into these communities, sharing the benefits found in being part of a loving and supportive group of people who miss us when we don’t show up. The church should be Jesus’ ever-expanding kingdom, but through routine and programming, it can very easily become inward focused. The church shutdown has forced us to be outward looking and accessible. Let’s not lose that.

Our health. This whole crisis has highlighted the importance of people’s health and it’s time we took our own health seriously. We have a message that helps us find optimal health and longevity. Yet many of us (myself included) too often find our physical, mental, spiritual or relational health sacrificed on the altars of busyness and convenience. We still have an opportunity to reach people and serve our communities with our messages on wholistic health and people are ready to focus on their health now more than ever.

Slow down the pace. Appreciate family time, quality time with your spouse, friends, family. Instead of pushing programs and filling our schedules in an effort to catch up on lost time, maybe this shutdown has actually been a good time for us to re-evaluate. For church too, we realise what we’ve truly missed and how we can make our church service (both the program and our volunteering for the church) more effective and impactful without the danger of burnout.

People in our communities need God’s love. This disaster has pushed us out of our comfort zones and woken many people up, especially in the West, to the reality that life is fragile and we are often at the mercy of our environment. What better time, then, to refocus on our message, to renovate our methods and to be the church in a world that is hurting.

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