Over the past 12 months the world as we had grown to know it, has been turned on its head. Can you imagine being told at the turn of 2020, that vast portions of the population would be working from home, whilst home schooling their children? Spending time in the home of your family would be prohibited? Hugging loved ones and friends would be out of the question? And if we are being honest, how many of us had even heard the word furlough?
For people of faith, another massive change has been restrictions on meeting together in places of worship. At some points even completely unallowed.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we should have been well prepared for these massive changes to our Sundays, President Nelson, the churches leader and prophet, had some time earlier placed a focus on Church supported Home Centered learning. With the introduction of scripture courses in “Come, Follow Me” manuals, we had already moved to learning at home and discussing at church, rather than the other way round.
Our program of frequent home visiting, to care for each others welfare, had previously changed from a quite regimented monthly “Home Teaching” by assigned church members, to a more spirit led “Ministering“. The latter providing flexibility in assignments and a focus on caring in every way possible.
We have had the blessing of technology: Very quickly after the pandemic caused lockdowns, each congregation was provided with church funded zoom accounts. Every needful thing had been prepared.
I know for many, including myself Sundays can be in danger of loosing something. If you are not one of these people, if you have soared in the new found Home Centered Sabbath I am pleased for you, The following remarks may not relate or possibly may even sound alien, but I feel it is important you understand.
There is a word we don’t often use or hear in church meetings and possibly even less in the last 12 months. We talk about “joining a zoom call” or “attending” a church zoom meeting. But I feel this focus can miss the point. For many years the church had on its exterior name sign the phrase “Visitors Welcome for Pubic Religious Worship” but what defines worship
The dictionary includes worship as a noun : the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.
worship is also expressed as a verb : show reverence and adoration for (a deity).
I wonder if all our zoom meetings have a focus on expressing and showing adoration for God and all He has done for us. It becomes even more interesting when this is considered in the context of what the law currently permits, for Sunday Services…”Communal worship, including prayers, devotions or meditations led by a Minister of Religion or lay person” If as church leaders we don’t provide adequate opportunities to worship in a church meeting, does it become unlawful to meet? Of course I’m taking the last point to far, but it does give cause for reflection.
Why do some people feel a lack of ability to Worship?
It may be that attending a meeting remotely via zoom is too passive for some people to feel engaged in worshipping. Note I believe there is a difference between feeling the spirit when someone speaks in a meeting and actively participating in “worshipping”… you can do the former without the latter.
Others may miss singing, there is something very active and open about singing of your love for God, that satisfies both the noun and verb “worship“
For some a Sunday service via zoom, that does not include participating in the ordinance of the sacrament may remove an element of worship.
I am sure there are other reasons that contribute to individuals feeling unable to participate in meaningful worship.
What is the answer?
I dont believe we have been in anyway prevented from worshipping, but we (myself included) need to find ways to ensure we are not just participating passively or neglecting the definition and priority that should be placed on worship activity.
If you are a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you will remember with fondness, the missionaries that taught you. Most likely two young people who were more open about their love of the Saviour, than anyone else you had previously met. If you have been one of those missionaries, you may reflect on your months of service to God… Could there be a better way of defining Worship? Does your current life have the same level of focus on the hub of the gospel, even Jesus Christ as it did then? There is a real danger of being caught in the “thick of thin things” in our church activity and service. Placing Jesus Christ front and centre, helps us to focus on worshipping him.
Find ways to recapture those memories with new experiences. I have started playing at least one Gospel focused album a day in my car as I travel, and yes I sing along. Not because I like my voice, but because I think it is a way to praise my God. I have also ensured my guitar playing activities include church hymns. There is something very purposeful and meditation like in focusing on every note and syllable of a sacred hymn.
If you have missed worship, I can’t offer all the answers to get it back, but perhaps my thoughts have just pinpointed what it is you have missed. With prayer and thought we can find new ways to worship and help others we lead, to do likewise.
We don’t have a monopoly.
I have been playing a particular song quite a lot recently. Regardless of what you know about Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. AKA Stormzy, let me pose a thought. If you were an up-and-coming rapper from London, with a rare chance to be the headline act at Glastonbury, would you include in your set a gospel song that speaks openly of your love for God? I think most of our missionaries, recently returned missionaries and new converts would., But what about our more seasoned members? When we focus on worshipping God we find it easy to share His love. As I watch this video I am touched and sense that Stormzy means what he says, that in turn brings the love Jesus has for me into greater clarity. I believe this song is an expression of Worship, it proves we can worship anywhere, we just need to bring it into focus and make it a priority.
“This is what it sounds like when Glastonbury meets God…this is a God tune. This is everything.”Stormzy
Random thoughts of John Teal