I am just about to return to in person worship services. I live in an area where quite a few people prefer not to take some precautions, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t blame them. But because of the precautions I decided to take in an effort to spend time with a sphere of people, I needed to limit other contact. I have been okay with online church—and have grown by and through it—and I’ve shared many of the ways I’ve stayed connected through the past year. But I will also be glad to be back in person soon once I’m fully vaccinated.
Easter week was challenging to be away. Because services are livestreamed every Sunday, I assumed Good Friday’s service would be as well. But when I saw the social media reminder of the service Friday morning, I realized I hadn’t seen anything that specifically mentioned online access, so I asked.
No. It was in person only. I’m not sure why, but I understand there are some difficult decisions in ministry. But I went back and forth a bit. I understand the challenges of ministry, but I was disappointed. I had seen references to how this Easter was different than last year, because we could meet together this year. But that just exposed the gap between the in person people and the not. It highlighted the chasm between the willing and not, able and not, together and not. And following a year of tension and division for a variety of reasons, I was a little annoyed.
I tried not to get distracted. My intent was to focus on Good Friday, on Jesus’ sacrifice. The unavailability of a specific service would not derail me. I looked for other online ministries I’ve engaged with over the past year and immediately found options. And I decided to read through the book of Mark. If I’m honest, I don’t think I would have been as intentional about my focused worship that evening if I hadn’t been disappointed. Sometimes a “no” clarifies our focus.
I’m not annoyed about the Good Friday service, but I can’t say all frustration is gone. Early the following week, one of my friends in ministry posted about hearing a church leader announce something with the phrase, “for those that don’t want to risk Church.” I just don’t get it. Why are we finding new ways to push people away? Are we welcoming people to disengage as much as or more than we are welcoming people to engage?
I hope not.
I’m not leaving. I love the church—because of God’s purpose for it. I wholeheartedly believe God will continue to guide me with personal and relational discipline in order to grow in faith. I trust him to grow me in and through the community in which I am positioned. But I also know I and every single other person, regardless of where we are in our faith journeys, are vulnerable. Our faith can be pruned or eroded. We have personal responsibility to respond to God well. We also have corporate responsibility. How we live together, encourage each other, reach others, and communicate with love and truth every moment of the journey reflects God well—or doesn’t.