This is likely our last week that will not start with the opportunity to attend corporate worship in a sanctuary with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Things could change, of course, and our session pledges to stay abreast of the latest developments from public health experts, the VDH and the CDC. However, our number one priority is (as always) to glorify God, and enjoy forever. We do that by ensuring the safety and health of God’s people as impacted by our actions at New Hanover Presbyterian Church.
What is sure is this – we are walking by faith every day. Nothing has been sure on any given day for the past year, has it? Yet, we could not just stop and wait it out – I can tell you that the staff, the church officers, our key volunteers and I have worked every day since March of 2020 to make sure that not having services in the sanctuary did not mean that we neglected the worship of God or the fellowship of God’s people or loving service to others in the name of Jesus.
Now, the time is coming to reform (truly!) our fellowship as we begin to meet together again for worship, study, fellowship and service of all kinds…
and it is going to be hard.
I am sure that you, like me, developed a Sunday morning ritual of watching worship on YouTube wearing our comfy clothes and bedroom slippers. Instead of facing forward, silent in the pews, we could lean back in our recliners and sip coffee and casually talk during the services. We may have missed seeing our friends very deeply, but there was a certain attraction in a late breakfast and a little extra sleep that going to church would not have allowed.
Now, you might think that ours is the first generation of people who have faced the temptation of staying home from church instead of making the extra effort to get up, clean up, dress up and go to church. I think all of us know that is not true! The writer of the Book of Hebrews had to write about the same challenges during the earliest days of the church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we find this:
24 We ought to see how each of us may best arouse others to love and active goodness. 25 We should not stay away from our meetings, as some do, but rather encourage one another, all the more because we see the day of the Lord drawing near.
Listen, there has always been that little voice in our head, telling us that worship by ourselves or with our family is just as good as going to church. However, what we know in the church is that the things that we do together are designed to be done together – and I believe by God’s design. Being at church is something we do, yes, for ourselves, but for others around us as well. Encouraging one another, laughing with one another, singing God’s praise with one another… the Christian Faith is, inescapably a corporate faith.
That is why, when searching for a metaphor for the church, Paul chose “the Body of Christ.” As the church, we are not a pile of random rocks, haphazardly cast on the earth, but are put with one another for the purposes of fellowship, support and joint service in the name of Jesus. We are organically part of one another, and when we are not together, we suffer – and so does everyone else.
As great a temptation as it is, I urge everyone to lay aside the illusion that church on TV is just as good as being there (or even better, since we rarely have pajama and bedroom slipper day at NHPC). Now that we know what we are missing, let’s NOT miss the chance to be with, encourage and bless one another by being at church as often as we can. We are, I believe, made just for this – to be together in Christ.