Being away from people we love these last weeks has been difficult. Take our faith communities, for instance. I have heard many of you express sadness and grief because we have been unable to gather in-person in and worship together. “I have missed worshipping so much,” you have often said in mourning.
But COVID-19 has not stopped us from worshipping. It will take much more than a virus to do that. When we first learned one of the best ways we could care for one another was to practice social distancing, we loved our neighbor by staying home. We now wear masks to keep our neighbors well. By caring for our neighbors, we honor God, and that is an act of worship.
Things changed rapidly with this thing. As news unfolded, faith leaders had to get creative and computer-savvy. Our nation got a crash course overnight in technology. These last few weeks, many of us have been corporately worshiping sitting on couches and at kitchen tables. Familiar hymns and prayers we sang months ago sitting in pews side by side may now be broadcast by different means, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped singing… and God certainly hasn’t stopped listening
Through it all, we have encountered God in new ways — Facebook Live, YouTube, and Zoom. We’ve learned people have tuned in who may have never physically attended our services…or perhaps it had been a very long time. For congregations hosting a drive-in service, this may be the first time the neighbors have heard your pastor’s voice.
I also think it is important to note that the way we choose to spend each day of our lives can be our greatest worship of God.
So many of you, without fanfare, stepped up immediately. Many of our community agencies like Hickory Soup Kitchen, Greater Hickory CCM, Salvation Army, and Women’s Resource Center have seen tremendous spikes in need, and people have responded. Without hesitation, churches and synagogues saw to their financial needs and opened their pantries and freezers. They cooked, sewed, and volunteered. Some prepared and distributed meals to hungry families and children, while others handed out toilet paper and cleaning products when none could be found. Wherever a need has been voiced, you were the hands and feet of God. All acts of worship.
Where I am employed, we are blessed by how you have responded to the needs of our patients and families. When the crisis hit, faith communities and individuals across our service area immediately went to work assembling disposable plastic gowns, making headbands for our clinical teams, and sewing much needed reusable cloth isolation gowns. McCreary Modern made masks to keep us safe. Again, worship!
In her book, ‘The Preaching Life,’ theologian, professor, and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Worship is the ongoing practice of faith, and not only the practice by the actual experience of it. Whether it takes place around a kitchen table or the carved marble altar of a great cathedral, worship is how the people of God practice their reliance on their Lord.”
I am grateful to be both a witness and a sojourner with you. Undoubtedly, during these times, we are indeed by practicing our reliance on God day by day by day. May it always be so.