No dressing up in your best jeans and hiking shirt or your suit or dress and rushing the family out the door on Sunday mornings. No catching up with your friends over coffee or breakfast snacks. No sitting in the pew and staring at the stained glass windows as folks gather for worship. No hugging and shaking hands with church family you haven’t seen in a couple of weeks. No lifting up with one voice the Lord’s Prayer or singing together our favorite songs. No laughing out loud together at the preacher’s joke. No gathering in the familiar Sunday School classroom planning your next service project or studying the Sunday School lesson together. No sharing a large church wide meal together following church or on a Sunday night. No collecting, sorting and selling a bazillion used items at our Fall Bazaar to raise money for our church or for missions.
No doubt, church as we have experienced it has been disrupted in almost every way because of COVID-19. While the church has not for a minute ceased to be the Church, some people question if what we have been doing livestream or via Zoom can even be called Church. Others admittedly have found “pajama church” comforting and easily accessible. Others miss deeply connecting with their church family.
I wonder if there are any lessons, we can learn from what is happening right now. Certainly, this is not the first time the Church has had to adapt to its circumstances. When we look at the early Church, we can see some similarities between their context and ours today. When you think about it, it’s amazing that the Church even survived 2000 years. It not only survived but it spread all the way around the world. Make no mistake about it, nothing can stop God from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. Except maybe you and me if we don’t engage and participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing.
That is why we are going to start a new sermon series at Boone UMC called Reimagining Church: Lessons from the Early Church. We think that we can gain some insight into our current circumstances by looking at how the Church functioned in those first 100 years after Jesus’ ascension. The Church looks so different now from what it did then. But what if there are some characteristics of what God intended Church to be then that we could apply to Church today?
The Early Church had to adapt from early on. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and worship as the Judeo-Christians knew it was altered forever. Not every community had a Synagogue and most of those communities rejected the Christian movement so those first Christians had to gather in the safest place they had access to worship- their homes. Sound familiar?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past two months. Knowing that we will not be able to gather and worship for a while in order to keep our community healthy and safe, what if we found another way to get together. What if we plotted our membership and we began to gather in 2 or 3 family units to watch worship together on someone’s back deck and then talked about the message for a few minutes afterwards? What if we found out who the 6 to 7 closest church members were to us and promised to check on them to make sure everyone had what they needed right now? What if we found ways to get together to study Scripture or pray for one another in those neighborhood groups? It might be a beautiful way to connect with some of our church family until we are able to gather with the rest of our church family.
We are also ready to share that after Labor Day and in anticipation of cooler weather making our outdoor gatherings a little tricky, we will start opening up our church building for small groups to gather inside. Those groups are limited to 10 people in a room until CDC and state recommendations change. We have plenty of rooms available and we will be happy to work with our church groups to find an appropriate space for your group to space out and safely distance.
We will look for other ways we can apply what we are learning from our exploration of the Early Church over these next 10 weeks. Our hope is that we can look with fresh eyes and Reimagine what Church can look like today. Don’t miss what God might be doing because you are looking over your shoulder at what Church was a few months ago. Don’t miss what God might be doing because you have certain expectations of what you think Church should be when God is trying to show us what God envisions now. Let’s look ahead with anticipation and excitement to see what this new era of being Church might look like. And it just might be that one path to the future starts by looking back at the Early Church. Either way, I’m excited to see how God plans to use the Church now because I still believe the Church is God’s best plan for the World!
Grace and Peace,