Sunday was a strange day for many of us. For the first time in as far back as I can remember, I didn’t have the chance to go to a church gathering. Now I can remember the last time I didn’t go to church, and it was a great and restful time I assure you, but this was much different; this time, I didn’t have a chance to go. I’m sure that many others recognized this and felt the same strange sensation around 9 am on Sunday: the feeling of a life without church.
I never thought I would see the day when anything, be that a natural disaster, pandemic, war, etc, would keep churches worldwide from gathering on Sunday. But here we were on March 22nd all gathered in our homes with no common place of worship to meet together. It was a shocking realization. It was not safe for our whole community, the community of the earth, if we gathered on Sunday, so we all decided to stay home.
That is not, however, the end of the story. My church, as well as most other churches nationwide, did a live feed for their congregations online. My pastor live streamed a sermon from his own home on YouTube and we got to see in the comments section who else was watching. It was great to see everyone there and be reminded that there are many dedicated followers of Christ in our church.
But honestly, something was missing. We greeted each other in the comments but there was no face to face meeting, no eye contact. There was no way to know how anyone was feeling – no way to take the temperature of their soul. As good as the message was, something was missing even from that. I could not watch my pastor walk around the stage or see his body language. Some things just don’t translate well from the in person experience to the medium of the internet, and I think that sermons often run into that problem. There was a feeling of space between myself and my community, something that cannot be overcome by even the best cameras and microphones in the world. I was feeling rather apathetic and kind of disappointed about the whole experience. I was not looking forward to who knows how many more weeks of this.
That’s when I hopped on Facebook and began scrolling; a sentence which usually marks the start of a disaster, but I’m happy to say the opposite. I came across the live feed for my former professor, Dr. Wallace, as he gave his homily to his empty church building. It wasn’t any more spectacular than my pastor’s sermon (although he did nonchalantly quote the Star Wars prequels and then move on without any mention of it) but what sticks with me is that I was able to watch his message from 1300 miles away. I would have never gotten the chance to do that if I were in my church building on Sunday morning. In fact, as I continued scrolling, I found access to at least five other churches doing live feeds – all of which are churches either I have once attended or one of my friends currently attends. There was something special about seeing all of it on my news feed.
While my connection to my local church is not the best it can be right now, and I pray we return to gathering as soon as it is safe, what Sunday reminded me is that Church is universal. The entire Body of Christ, be it Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and all the denominations among them, was in the same situation yesterday. We all had to do the same thing regardless of the differences between us. We each did it differently – my pastor spoke from his house in front of a webcam while Dr. Wallace and a couple other church leaders actually streamed from their building – but we all had to meet our separate congregations in the same place.
I am now looking forward to future Sundays. I am excited to gather on YouTube with my church then quickly tune in to McLean Baptist Church to see what they are doing this week. After that, who knows? Maybe I check out Christian Fellowship Church in Roscoe Village, Calvary Baptist in Elgin, Liquid Church in Parsippany, New Jersey. The Church is universal and this is our chance to experience that.