All who believed were together and had all things in common…Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
Acts 2:44, 46-47
It’s been a full three months since we’ve been able to meet as a congregation in our church building. I’ve always understood on a fundamental level that church is about relationships, but I now understand how I’ve taken for granted the degree to which face-to-face interactions nurture our spiritual well-being.
Preaching to an empty sanctuary week after week feels like an exercise in futility. I can’t see your reactions. I don’t know where I’ve hit a note well or not at all. Most importantly, I cannot feel your spirit in the same way.
The church has always been a place where community interaction plays a central role. Indeed, as I have spoken about in my sermons from the Church and State series, the church is one of the last places in American society where socioeconomically diverse, multigenerational gatherings still exist.
In a world where we would rather remain sequestered in our homes communicating through our digital devices, the church calls to us to momentarily leave those devices behind in favor of enjoying a common experience.
There is something so invigorating about communal worship. Whether it be through shared words, songs, prayers, or even a sermon, being present in the same space with people who are seeking an encounter with something deeper than themselves is an inspirational and moving event. I know many of you understand what I’m talking about because you all have been reaching out and telling me how much you miss coming to church.
Within these communications, I am frequently hearing the same themes: I never realized how grounding church was for me until I could not go; I feel like a part of me is missing without church on Sundays; the church is where I find hope and, without it, I’m starting to feel aimless and alone; I miss seeing my friends; thank you so much for doing the online services, but they aren’t quite the same.
No, they are not the same and that is because, at the core of Christianity, is an understanding that we experience God through being together. This is why the book of Acts, which describes the early church after Jesus’ resurrection appearances, always emphasizes that the church is nothing without the people.
Even though the Session is working on a plan for in-person worship if the infection curve in our area continues to fall, we likely will not get the opportunity to be together for some time.
Therefore, I have a job for you. Over the next days and weeks, I want you to reach out to members of the church who you have not seen or spoken with over the last three months.
Whether it be through a phone call or an e-mail, everyone has people who they know only from their association with the church. These are the people who are outside of your regular social circles and who you only see when you come to church.
The reason I have given you this task is because we need to maintain these connections for our spiritual health. Without feeling some connection with our church community, I fear that the very fabric that holds the church together could become frayed.
There are many people in our community who are feeling isolated and removed from the world. Let’s do our best to live into our Christian duty and let them know they are not alone.