|Posted by communications on September 9, 2020 at 4:25 PM|
A question that has been on my mind a lot in recent days is, “how does the Church continue to be the Church in this moment in our history?” For nearly six months now, we have been unable to gather for worship in our church building. This has been a challenging reality for those of us for whom “going to church” has always been an integral part of our lives. It has even become a source of tension among “church-going” folks, with some insisting that indoor, in-person worship should continue, regardless of the status of the pandemic. There is also a growing fear among many church leaders that the already declining numbers in church attendance will become exponentially worse because of this extended time of not going to church.
The angst is understandable. Even as we have found new ways to do worship and keep ourselves connected, it will never feel the same as coming together in one place on Sunday mornings for worship. I think we do well, however, to remember what it really means to be the Church.
The word that we translate as “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia”, which literally means “to call out from”. It has little if anything to do with a specific location or building, but refers to a gathering of people convened for a particular purpose, with a clear implication that the purpose will be fulfilled by the actions of members after the gathering. In other words, the word that we translate as “church” is much more about how we live our faith in the world than it is about what we do within the church walls on Sunday morning; it is much more about peoples’ lives than it is about a building. Instead of talking only about “going to church” we should rather talk more often about “being the Church."
Now please don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that going to church is unimportant. Coming together in one place for worship, prayer, to receive the sacraments, and to simply be together as fellow members of the Body of Christ is vitally important for our spiritual growth and development. What I am saying, however, is that even when we are only able to “gather” virtually, we can still be the Church. Indeed, in this moment in time we are especially called to be the Church.
We are being called as members of the Body of Christ to live in this challenging time in ways that bear witness to God’s love and mercy for all of God’s creation. We are being called to openly acknowledge racial injustice in our nation and to do whatever we can in our context to facilitate real and lasting change. We are being called to serve as agents of God’s reconciling love in a time when our nation is so deeply divided by partisan politics. We are being called to care for our loved ones and strangers alike, by wearing our masks and social distancing. We are being called to carry our faith with us into the voting booth, not on our sleeves and for the purpose of judging or shaming others, but with a genuine desire to participate in a process that impacts our world and the neighbors we are called to love. We are called to be the Church. We can do that even when we cannot go to church in the way we would like.
Yours in Christ,