I remember making the announcement: “We’re moving immediately to a livestream-only format for Sunday services. Oh, and all other groups are either cancelled or moving online.
“Hopefully we’ll be back for Easter!”
Sigh. When was the last time 12 months felt like 12 years?
We miss seeing each other eyeball to actual eyeball. Pouring coffee into each other’s mugs. Holding hands to pray. Hugging a friend at youth group. Inviting neighbours to our community BBQ. Blowing the roof off on Christmas Eve with Joy to the World.
For the past 12 years I’ve pastored Westminster Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ont. We’ve never gone through anything like this. You haven’t either, of course. We’ve learned that online ministry is good for a lot of things, but not everything. We’ve learned that we love to sing together and can’t wait to do so again. We’ve learned that prayer is huge, and decisions aren’t easy. We’ve learned how inter-dependent we are, how it takes a village, how close to the edge many people are, and how much faith in a Saviour matters.
Despite the fact that Sundays are online only, worship has started to involve more people from the congregation. They’ve been submitting all sorts of videos, including music, faith-at-home activities for families, and even mini-testimonies.
We’ve leveraged digital for discipleship. That was happening before the pandemic, but has now accelerated, with the approval of a smartphone app which allows people to be connected to their church through a device already in their pockets.
We’ve also approved a home church model. Leaders are being recruited and environments are being planned where people can gather (when restrictions lift) in smaller numbers to support one another, to worship and to learn.
Some people might never again enter into a formal church setting, and that trend is likely to accelerate. So this is different on purpose. We want to reach out in new and creative ways for God’s kingdom, inviting ever-more people to share in the hope who is Christ.
A crisis creates clarity about what’s important: God, the gospel and people. Some of the methods may evolve, but the message and mission march on.
Read the other stories of our second Easter apart: