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What we are missing about not having gathered worship

Many churches are unable to gather due to national lockdowns because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. What are we missing about not having gathered worship?

Last week, I was privileged to support and attend a funeral service for one our retired Salvation Army officers (led by another retired officer). It reminded me just what I am missing about gathered church at the moment.

Congregational Singing

The congregation last week was limited to just ten people, because of the current social distancing rules being followed in the United Kingdom. But fortunately, a number of us there were used to leading worship, so we were able to manage some gusty congregational singing! It made me realise just how much I miss singing along with other people.

I’ve enjoyed singing along to the songs I’ve chosen to stream for live worship, but it’s not quite the same as singing together, even if I can sometimes hear my wife’s voice singing along downstairs (especially as her stream is often quite a few seconds behind the one I’m broadcasting!). I often imagine some of my church members singing along too and that encourages me. But it doesn’t quite fill my heart the way live congregational singing does.

Worship Offerings of God’s People

As a Salvation Army church, we have a brass band that contributes music to our worship meetings. Our Songsters (senior choir) and Young People’s Choir also share songs with great meaning in our meetings. Individuals read the Bible and pray, and we have times of testimony where people share their current walk of faith with those attending worship. I miss all of those things. They really are of service to those of us who hear them.

It’s been fun researching music I can bring to online worship each week, and sometimes putting together music videos for music where such videos don’t seem to exist. But again, it’s not quite the same as hearing these things live, knowing that leaders and individuals have prayerfully thought about and offered these items, and that those presenting them are prayerfully channelling their gifts through them.

Live Preaching

Preaching to a camera lens has proved a steep learning curve. For the first couple of weeks, I tried sitting down and attempting to make it more “conversational”. But I found it lacked energy. So the next week, I stood up with my Bible in my hand as I normally do. I came away thinking I was shouting at the camera, as I had preached as I would have done in front of a congregation of one hundred. I’ve stayed standing but hopefully toned it down a little since!

I’ve tried to tailor my preaching to my local congregation, even though I know there are others listening and watching in. I want to make it personal and intimate, as I do when I’m preaching with them. I try to know my people and their needs and preach accordingly. That is proving more difficult when I don’t see them as often and because I’m not preaching in front of them, so I don’t get their “feedback.” I don’t mean that they’re very vocal when we’re together. It’s more ethereal than that. You just get a sense when a sermon is hitting home.

Preaching to a camera is just not the same. I much prefer the real thing.

Real Life Fellowship

Almost no one rushes home after our worship meetings. After morning worship, we have coffee and most people will stay. Even after the evening meeting, it can often be a good half an hour before the building can be locked up. That always makes me smile, because it shows how deep our fellowship and friendship is. People love being together, and that’s great.

During this lockdown we have tried to replicate this virtually, by meeting together after worship online, via Zoom. I’m often encouraged by this still. Yesterday’s was a bit of a riot! But it’s still not the same as meeting together to do it. Some members are excluded because they don’t have or they fear the technology. You can only have one person speaking at a time, which is a little unnatural, and it’s just not the same as being able to move around the room seeing people loving, serving and encouraging each other.

These are just a few of the things I am missing about gathered worship at the moment. What do you miss most? Why not leave a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “What we are missing about not having gathered worship”

  1. I can understand your “missing” the congregation for worship, music and giving your wonderful sermons. I am an outsider looking in. I am not familiar with how your church is to be there physically. Heck, I am not even a member but I thought I would give my two cents as a visitor. I felt an emptiness and felt the need to get back to attending church and I live in a very small town. I didn’t want everyone pulling me to all locations. I thought I would start online. I TRIED a few different services and gave up a bit. It was too preachy to me, like I was doing something always wrong and yes, I am a sinner but it was not positive and uplifting. Then one Sunday, something came over me to try again. I found it. I still think God brought it to me of course. The sermons are the best part to me! Never rough, always with a smile and very heart felt. I always look forward to hearing your sermon, I can only imagine how great it is in person. I love the whole service! Thank you for letting me visit.

    1. You are definitely not an outside to us Karen. One of the things our lockdown has made us think about quickly, is providing worship online and about engaging with our online congregation. I’m glad you’ve found it uplifting and that the messages have been gentle. We all need that in these days. Thanks for your encouragement, and we look forward to you “visiting” again soon!

  2. Once again Rob you have put into words what I and many others Are feeling about being apart.
    We are thrilled with the way you have kept us ‘together’ vis social media – but it’s true – it’s not the same. Isolation has made me realise how much we take for granted as we meet week by week. Dare I say familiarity can make us complacent and my prayer is we will be even more mindful of each other and kinder and gracious than ever before when we do meet again. God is blessing us in a meaningful way during these days – He is teaching me much about Grace and forgiveness as He is most gracious and forgiving to me. I bless His Holy name. We continue to pray for your ministry to us via the screen and know that God is still blessing us in so many ways during this time. God bless and use you always.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Elaine. You are right about familiarity, and I pray that the unfamiliarity of this time of lockdown, will shake us out of any sense of complacency when we meet again. I certainly get that sense from comments that are being made about how much we are missing being together.

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