Yvon's note: I admit, I was a bit cranky when I wrote this. Well, not so much cranky as sad, but I know I can come across cranky at times when I want to cry but end up yelling (ask my husband). I wanted to acknowledge that and ask for your forgiveness if the following comes across too harshly. I seem to be over-reacting a lot these days or maybe it’s an appropriate reaction to the over-the-top stresses of these days. I’m not sure, but I trust the following gives us thoughtful pause as we work to adapt to changing challenges while serving “the least of these.”
It’s been a wild ride in church communications and it isn’t going to smooth out any time soon as we try to figure out what to keep, what to modify, what new things to try, and what old ways of doing things we can toss out. Much well-deserved emphasis and discussion have been on new ways to conduct worship online and that will continue as churches work to figure out how to juggle the challenges of meeting physically together (while properly social distancing apart) and continuing an online ministry for those who cannot meet together.
While these discussions are going on, I’d like some recent thoughts.
Imagine you are older; imagine your health is compromised in some way and staying home is a necessity. Most likely this has been an extremely fearful time.
If you weren’t entirely comfortable with technology, it might have been a challenge to figure out how to participate in an online Bible study or watch a Sunday service.
Imagine that despite your fears, you are just now starting to feel comfortable taking communion with crackers and juice at home and singing along with the worship team on the computer. But on Sunday you are told this will stop. Well, maybe not stop entirely, the church will try to “stream” the service as they meet back in the building, but they are letting people know ahead of time this might not be the same and they made stop doing the online service.
There are no guarantees on the future of the online church, though they hope to make it a continuing option sometime in the future after they figure out how to safely do church back in the auditorium or parking lot.
“We don’t have time to do both online and in-person,” the pastor says.
What are you going to do about people (older, ill, afraid, or unable to go out or meet in person) in that situation? There are many of them at your church.
What “we don’t have time” really means
This has been a time of testing. As the Bible makes abundantly clear, God sends testing for us in part, to see what is in our hearts.
What is in our heart, what is most important to us is revealed by how we spend our time and even more so when testing puts constraints on our time.
When we say “we don’t have time” for something or someone, unless we are incarcerated in a brutal workcamp where every minute of our day is controlled, we all have time to do what we want to do.
We must be honest as we make decisions that what we take time for and what we don’t, equals what is important to us and what isn’t.
When the not so imaginary person I just talked about (she is a real person and all I shared were her words) above heard that the church didn’t have time to do the only way she could now attend church what she heard is “the church does not have time for me.”
And she was right. Whether they meant it or not, that is reality.
What are we to do?
What have you done so far? How have you cared for those who didn’t understand or have access to technology? How did you help them?
You most likely went the extra mile working to figure out ways to help people get online. You checked upon the people in your church, you knew who had a computer and who didn’t. You made sure everyone had access if not with a computer, with their phone.
You didn’t stop checking up on alone or elderly or ill people after the first few weeks. You continued calls or notes or postcards. You sent our encouraging emails to your congregations and kept up a flow of positive, thankful social media.
What are you continuing to do?
The reality in the church today is that the workload of many church communicators has doubled
Things will not go back to how they were, whatever it was.
In the past, there were arguments about what was most important, digital or in print communications, if an online service was necessary or a waste of time in addition to an in-person service.
We’ve learned over the last few months that it is not a matter of either/or, but both/and.
Churches have quickly learned the value and practical process of online services, but they have also become recommitted to physical gatherings in tentative and safe ways.
We will continue to learn how to balance how we share the words of eternal life, but in that process, let’s never forget those who can only access one channel. Let’s work hard to go after the one sheep all alone and out there. That what our Lord did and may He give us the strength to do the same.
UPDATE NOTE: In the time since I first wrote this, the lady referenced above reported back to me that her church had decided to continue a streaming service of the Sunday morning service. They were surprised that over half the congregation preferred attending that. Even though they were first concerned about the mistakes that could happen with the live stream, it worked out well. The lady also said she loved it and hoped her neighbors didn’t mind when she turned up the sound and loudly sang the worship songs. She said she’s even thinking of inviting a few friends over to join her. If they will sit on opposite sides of the room and wear masks, of course, she assured me.