During a Zoom call a month or so ago, a pastor friend mused, “Is worship all we have left?” Our virtual meet-up—all folks involved in congregational leadership—had been sharing various strategies we had tried to carry on with Sunday morning worship services.
Many have clicked into the Mennonite Church Canada nationwide services. Others have recorded services and distributed them online, by email or even via USB memory sticks dropped in mailboxes. We tried Zoom coffee hours and Facebook Live.
Frankly, I’ve been impressed by all the creativity fermenting. After months of pandemic, we are still standing, still church.
We’re missing a lot more than singing together, of course. I miss seeing faces, shaking hands, hugs. I miss potlucks! Also, Bible studies, small groups, Sunday school.
Still, we’re resourceful folks. We’ve figured out how to use our smartphone or iPad to meet up with friends and family. We’ve realized that neighbours next door and down the block matter just as much the folks we sit next to in the pew. We’ve had physically distanced backyard grad celebrations, stumbled onto the treasure trove of webinars with some of the world’s wisest Bible teachers and prophetic thinkers.
Worship is not all we have left. I do think, however, that worship is something we desperately need.
Barna’s recent 2020 State of the Church study found that what church folks want most right now is emotional support, a hopeful word from Scripture, and connection (tiny.cc/barna)—all things we once found together on Sunday morning. Our hearts are tired and lonely after trying to make do for so long.
But worship doesn’t ask, “How are you doing?” or, “What do you want?” Instead, in the midst of all our hustling, our hurting and hoping, worship pulls us aside and says, “Behold the Lamb!” Worship turns us to Jesus.
My daydreams tend more toward barbecues, dinner parties or a date night at a show. But these daydreams drive mostly to frustration, worry, harebrained schemes or resentment toward health guidelines.
It's when I enter the work of worship—praying, singing, reading with my virtual or physically distanced congregation—that I meet again One who surrendered all dreams and schemes, his wants and rights, so that we might be made whole (II Corinthians 5:19-21). I meet the God who, because Jesus humbled himself, raised him up and gave him the name above every name, so that every creature, power, institution and even every virus will one day confess his name (Philippians 2:9-11). I meet the Spirit who breathes life, stirs the waters, shatters mountains and monuments. What can I do but shout “Glory” (Psalm 29:9)?
Worship—not the gathering but the praise and lament that turns us toward God—lifts my attention from getting by or getting back to normal. It lifts my eyes to Jesus (and, in the process, often to my neighbour). Sunday morning worship may not be what it was, or even what I want, but it is what I need.
Josh Wallace is Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s interim church engagement minister.