What are we Learning?

We are a few weeks into this enforced experiment in distance worship and scattered community.  I was horrified to notice that I have begun to settle into a routine.  I am getting used to this! That should not be.

This past weekend we celebrated Easter.  Thank you to everyone who participated in art, song, encouragement, leading and working at worship.  I chose the word “working” intentionally.  Worship is work.  Especially when you are in your home with nobody but your “homies”.  I suspect that there are a lot of different experiences out there ranging from “introvert relief: it is good to be able to worship without so many people watching me and trying to talk to me” to “distance frustration: I can’t worship without people sitting and singing around me.”  Maybe you have learned to step in and engage in a whole new way.  Maybe you have slumped back in frustration.  Maybe you are just waiting this thing out.  Whatever your personal experience, own it and face it because it is probably instructive for you to pay attention to what is going on for you in this unusual time.

From a mix of personal experience and a few conversations, this is what I have been learning.

“That said, there are worship food-groups.  I mean, just because fewer people read a prayer doesn’t mean we aren’t going to serve prayer anymore. ‘Guide you best’ sometimes means pushing the unpopular.”

  1. Worship is work.  I know, I already said that but only because it is a big learning.  I suspect most of us are very aware right now how peer pressure works in worship.  Our peers positively push us to participate properly.  Back in Pre-Covid19 worship, we used to start together, sing together, pray together, stand together, commune together, and end together.  Yesterday I managed to sing along a little.  If I worked at it I could do this, but I had to work at it.  On Good Friday we went to all the stations. It took discipline. This is hard work.  But may I be so bold as to suggest that this is good for us? You know, “no pain, no gain” and all that.  We are learning what it takes to worship when we are not surrounded by our favourite cloud of witnesses.  This is a useful tool.  There are times in life when we need to step into God’s presence without the habit of Sunday 10 am and without the support of the crowd.  We are learning to stand on our own two feet.  Hard, yes.  Hopefully short-term and infrequent too.  But good learning, nonetheless.
  2. We don’t all engage in the same ways.  We always knew this, but we experience it differently in distance worship.  We send out a lot of opportunities.  We know which four people read and do everything we send.  We assume the rest of you do some picking and choosing.  We send out a full order of worship, but we can see (hope you knew we were watching 🙂 ) how many people open each part.  In fact, we want more information about what you are using so we developed a brief survey asking you to let us know what parts you participated in.  It will be anonymous; it is a way for us to get a sense of what works so that we can keep learning how to guide you best. The link is at the end of this article. That said, there are worship food-groups.  I mean, just because fewer people read a prayer doesn’t mean we aren’t going to serve prayer anymore. “Guide you best” sometimes means pushing the unpopular.  You will sit there, young lady, until you finish praying…and then you can listen to more worship songs.  Sorry, if that brings back hard childhood (or parenting) memories.
  3. You, the Immanuel Community, are wonderfully and consistently open, supportive, thankful and encouraging.  And you are resilient as well; you are hanging in there.  Thank you for all the ways you have engaged, attempted to engage, engaged elsewhere or disengaged graciously, whichever fits in your case.  We are figuring this out together and there is a strong sense that we are working in community even as we can’t be in communion together.

So that is an introduction and three points.  Let me end with a personal illustration.

I said earlier that I attempted to sing along on Easter.  Sometime last week I was saying that I don’t really need music.  I seldom listen to music when I drive, never when I am working, and I have discouraged people (very kindly) from sending me songs and expecting me to feel what they feel.  No offense to anyone, but music is not my first love language.  But then last week I was sitting at the island in our kitchen and Ruth Ann was playing one of the songs she was preparing for the Easter Service and it moved me to tears.  Couldn’t tell you which song.  It was the music reaching my soul and moving me.  Something may not be our favourite or even our natural go-to, but sometimes those are precisely the things God uses to sneak up on us and embrace us with his love.

Distance worship may not be our favourite and let’s hope it does not become our go-to way of being church, but pay attention to how God may use this time to sneak up and teach you something about his love for you.

~Pastor Erick Schuringa

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