We are on a journey in unknown territory. Amid this global pandemic, churches are being made to close their doors for the next few weeks or even months.
This feels very unnatural for many Christians. And rightly so. For the last two millennia, the church has provided sanctuary to the sinner, the sick and those in need. Yet today we face the reality that to love our neighbor means to forgo our weekly gatherings for the sake of the vulnerable in our midst.
It is during this time that the words of Saint John Chrysostom should be remembered: “For indeed the household is a little Church.”
Chrysostom’s words are not justification for abandoning a local Christian community, but an acknowledgment that the reign of God is present over all spheres of life. Our worship of Him must penetrate every one of these spheres, including our lives at home.
That said, here are some suggestions for how to worship in our isolation at home.
Creative community worship
Even though we aren’t meeting in person, we can still communicate with one another. One way to do this is to host a devotional, Bible study or prayer group with friends from church over a video chat app. Some apps are offering extra features during this time for free (Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.), so you likely won’t have to worry about the cost being an issue.
Video Church Service
Some larger churches have the equipment and staff to do high-quality live-streaming of their entire worship service, while many smaller churches may not and will likely record a video in advance. Both of these options provide an opportunity to keep connected with your church as you experience other members of your community worshiping with you — even if you can’t see them.
Ask your church to include not only a sermon or homily but also Scripture readings, prayers and perhaps a song in their videos. But ask gently — your church staff may be under a lot of stress right now.
Call or Text
Why not check up on someone with either a call or a text? If you want to do something really special, write them a letter or card. Ask a friend what they are feeling right now. Just listening can be a gift.
Offer to Run Errands
At the time I’m writing this, it should still be possible to offer to run errands for the elderly in your community. From what we know, the virus is most dangerous to them. Offer to pick up what supplies you can find and deliver them as a way to show the love of Christ.
Church Facebook Group
If your church doesn’t already have one, offer to start a Facebook group for your church where people can share prayer requests, needs, the video services mentioned above, and encouragement.
Your personal worship
While these areas of the home are more common for Orthodox and Catholic Christians, the idea is similar to a prayer closet — but not everyone has a closet to spare (especially in a small apartment). A prayer corner is a place in the home dedicated to prayer and worship. It signifies that the home is an extension of the universal church.
For my family’s corner, I chose my bedside table. I placed on it a painting of Jesus, an olivewood goblet and plate, an olivewood figure of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and a colored cloth to match the color of the church calendar. I also had a Bible there, but our book-destroying toddler kept getting to it. For Christmas, my wife bought me a frankincense resin burner to help engage all my senses in prayer.
Learn to Pray and Meditate
We already have two posts and a podcast on the topics of prayer and meditation, so I’ll simply link to them below:
Should Christians Practice Mindfulness?
Meditation and Mindfulness: Episode 626
Read through a whole book of the New Testament in either one sitting or as few as possible. That’s how they were meant to be read (they were letters, after all). Try to read through the whole New Testament while you’re in isolation. Then journal about what stands out to you. If you come across something confusing or just want additional context for what you’re reading, check out the helpful and creative resources from the BibleProject.
The universal body of Christ
The body of Christ transcends space and time. Although we cannot assemble in person, we are still united through Christ Jesus. While I look forward to the day when I can once again celebrate Communion kneeling next to my brothers and sisters in Christ here in town, drinking from one cup, I am thankful that we have the technology to aid us in staying connected in the meantime.
As for your personal worship, remember that worship is about participation, not passivity. Just watching a weekly sermon on YouTube or Facebook isn’t going to cut it for the next few months. Take the time to practice spiritual disciplines that will help you grow into the image of Christ.
I leave you with this quote from “The Fellowship of the Ring”:
Frodo: I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Let us use this time wisely.
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