‘When this is all over, we’re going to have such a celebration!’
Indeed. Our staff team was having lunch ‘together’ yesterday, and there was a chorus of agreement around the Zoom.
Read that last sentence again. If you’re a pastor, there’s a fair chance that six weeks ago you would not have made sense of it. Why the scare quotes around ‘together’? What’s with the Zoom?
We all know now, though, don’t we? Even if you don’t have the luxury of a staff team, you’ve done what we did – eat your sandwich, have a coffee, staring at a computer screen, while a good friend does the same, staring back at you.
What would have seemed weird, sterile, freakish and artificial, has become normal and kind, within days.
And we need to pay attention, because while it is normal and kind, we shouldn’t forget that it is also weird. Many Christians – even in affluent, western churches – can’t do it.
More importantly, it is artificial. Someone said to me a while back – years ago actually, before this was anything beyond church-scifi – that he didn’t think online church should ever catch on, because one of the things that the early church considered essential to fellowship was eating together, and that’s something you could never do online.
Well, we are all trying now, aren’t we?
And we are discovering that it is sterile. Fellowship like this causes headaches and eye strain. It is literally disembodied. The oppose of incarnational. Touch screens are clever, but they don’t enable you to, well, touch.
Physicality is a creation blessing. There’s a price to be paid for being inside a safe, sterile screen.
So here’s the challenge.
I’m not suggesting we break any government guidelines on safety. Far from it. You might be reading this in a country that is less locked down than the UK, and to you I’d say your seven lean years are coming – watch and learn. I reckon you have about a week when your church is allowed to meet. If you’re reading this in a country that is more restricted than the UK, we admire you, and know that it’s coming our way soon.
Given the realities of physical distancing, but the relative sterility of online church, how can we break that wall? Is there any way?
Here are six (only six!) ideas we have had:
- Shopping for someone, and putting an extra gift in there for them.
- Trying to reply to emails with a phone call instead.
- Coffee after church, on Zoom – with breakout groups for a bit of chat.
- A quiz night on Zoom, with ‘tables’. Just for fun.
- Making sure our noticeboards outside church stay fresh and up to date, to show that we are still physically around.
- Keeping a few lights on in the building, which in our case allows people to see in through some glass doors, and read a message.
Six, pitiful ideas. What have you done? Pile in!