Dear friends in Christ,
What is the church? There are a lot of answers to this question. A building. An institutional structure. A gathered group of Christians. Over the years and centuries, the church in all its forms has looked different in varied times and places.
During this time of pandemic, the church looks different. I take comfort in knowing that the church has always been on a bit of a journey. So it need not shock us that things look different now.
Of course, this doesn’t take away our grief at missing things that we cannot now have. I dearly miss receiving Holy Communion. And I yearn for the day when I can belt out a hymn with a full congregation. Still, we know that Jesus Christ is present in the church, even when the church looks different from what we are used to or what we prefer. Thanks be to God.
I’ve been thinking about all this. How can we carry on the essential aspects of church life even when we can’t gather—or when we can only gather in very limited ways?
Worship is surely a more satisfying experience in a full church, but we can worship in our homes. We can tune into a webcast, but we can also just grab our prayer book and offer our prayers and praises individually or with others in our household.
We can offer our daily prayers and we can read scripture on our own, or with an online group. We can support mission outreach and social justice work with our financial gifts or in other ways, even if we can’t get together with our usual team at church.
In other words, the church can thrive now. Many congregations have discovered this, and they have adapted to our present reality. It’s possible that we won’t ever go back to the way things were in 2019. Maybe online daily prayers are here to stay. Maybe online bible studies are going to stick around. Time will tell.
But we also have to be mindful of all the ways we are leaving people out. Are we supporting people in worship who do not have internet access? Are we using online tools to support worship and learning in life-giving ways? We at Forward Movement have been looking for gaps—places where local churches might need help. We think we found one, and we have an answer.
A new offering called “This is NOT Sunday School” will launch in mid-September. Hosted by ChurchNext and taught by our friends at Forma, this is a new online, weekly, free, and intergenerational way to learn together. Your family—whatever your ages—can gather and learn some of the great stories of the Bible together. Learn more and sign up at the ChurchNext website.
This is one example of a creative solution to how we need to grow into this new time. I wonder what other needs you see? Are there ways in which the church can thrive in ways it has never grown?
We’re watching, listening, and praying here at Forward Movement. We want to inspire disciples and empower evangelists now as ever.
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Photo: Christ Church Charlotte
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