As one of our contemporary hymns, written by Jim Manley, invites us: “Come in, come in and sit down for you are a part of the family!” On Sunday mornings I usually log on around 9:45 and one of my favourite things is watching people enter worship which—when we are worshipping in the sanctuary—I rarely get to do! When I reflect on what I have learned so far from this time of physical distancing, it’s that it isn’t the programs that matter most, it is the people.
Most folks, it seems, would rather watch an amateur Zoom worship with their own minister whose hair is in bad need of professional cutting, than watch a slickly produced online worship service from afar. Not because there’s anything wrong with quality livestreamed worship, but because for most people, the most important thing about church is the warmth and personal connection they feel when they gather. Being with our church family is an important part of worship.
Worshipping together while physically apart is full of challenges and you have blessed us with your good humour and patience as we have struggled to provide a service that is meaningful and still-engaging though it is being delivered online.
We used to have intergenerational services, worship when all ages are together for the whole service and there is no separate Sunday School program offered, about 7 times a year. But in this time when many of us are attending church services from our living rooms at home, every week is intergenerational worship.
A colleague of mine in children’s ministry, Robin Murray, reminds us in her article “Intergenerational Learning and Covid 19” that even if children are somewhere in the background, sitting off to the side, “don’t be fooled into thinking they are distracted! They are absorbing all that is going on around them, learning hymns even if they don’t sing, catching key words, and developing curiosity about why older family members value church. They are also worshipping God in their own way, especially that two-year-old bouncing on the couch in the background on Zoom worship!”
We are still working at ways to invite people to be participants, not merely spectators, in worship. I have been touched when, on one of the first Sundays we had online worship, Beryl Itani spontaneously lit a candle, or listening to scripture read by children like Charlotte Seethaler and Theo Ducs, or hearing the concerns and names on your hearts read into the Prayers of Intercession each Sunday.
Having a sense of connection and inclusion is especially important during this time of social distancing. As you arrive to worship on Zoom and during the service use the Gallery View and arrow keys to notice who else is in worship just as you would in the sanctuary! And after the Postlude we encourage you to stick around for breakout rooms. This is just like coffee hour after worship and Sunday School ends—a little bit chaotic even!—but a fun way to visit with and get to know some other members of the congregation you might never have had a conversation with.
Over the last few weeks I have loved seeing Noah and Sophia’s fort and a model car they assembled, a picture that Ada had drawn during worship, and visiting with Brock and his family and hearing that they were having a special Easter dinner with family on Zoom.
Even if they are just passing by the screen or tucked in a corner of it, children are with us! Thanks for helping to remind them they are valued members of our congregation by giving them a special wave!