The Year We Stopped Going to Church

Had enough of ‘online church’ yet? Ready to get back into the swing of church life as you knew it pre-covid?

I imagine there will be a range of responses to that question.

I know that for some the Sunday morning is their lifeline, a significant time in their week that matters greatly in their own life of faith. I imagine some are missing the regular friendly faces, the family vibe, the worship, the sense of being part of something, but equally they aren’t in a rush to get back. There are those who aren’t missing it that much at all, except to feel a little guilty for not missing it. And of course those who have found a new normal sans gathering.

I know plenty of people are in the ‘ok enough already!‘ mindset and want to get back to all things pre-covid – work, travel. eating out and of course going to church. But what if this is quite literally the ‘new normal’? What if gatherings of 100 become inconceivable for 2 or 3 years?

How do we operate and sustain ourselves in these times? What form does the church need to thrive in this time? What kind of leadership will we need to offer as we navigate new waters?

I get the sense we should not expect to be back in our buildings much before the end of the year and when we do we can expect it to be very very different. We will be sitting a long way apart. We won’t be able to shake hands, hug or get close. Morning tea? Communion? And so it goes on and that’s before we speak of sanitising seats and equipment both before and after we gather. Who is gonna do all that stuff?

It may be that we can meet together, but the experience becomes so ‘un-churchlike’ that we choose to forego it and stay in homes or parks, or wherever we choose to gather.

Maybe we ought to settle in and figure out how to really make the most of this new space and see it as an opportunity to re-imagine church in a way we never would have while we were still able to show up every Sunday – because – let’s face it – re-thinking church structures isn’t high on most people’s agendas and it inevitably brings a lot of unneeded conflict. If ever there was an opportunity for fresh thinking to be placed on the table then it is now.

I don’t know that this time is a win for anyone except the home churches who are most likely back to business as usual now (minus hugs). I imagine it could be hard on the churches that need lots of $$ to survive and especially hard on churches that are paying either rent or a mortgage on a building that is not being used. It could be difficult for those with ancillary staff and what does a full time pastor do nowadays when there is much less pastoring to do?

Perhaps one of the genuine tests for how we are going is in the finances. Have we seen finances plunge because the ‘service’ that was being paid for is no longer being provided? Or have we seen finances stay stable because the ‘family’ have rallied and realised that we are in tough times and now is not the time to drop the ball?

We are about to go thru a major leadership transition where Danelle and I will step out of team leader roles at both Yanchep and Quinns and into support pastor roles. How does a new pastor step into ‘covid’ space and begin to lead? Its challenging for sure.

I have my money on Jan 1 2021 as the time we will be able to gather again with more than 100 people – albeit with restrictions still in place – but by then people will have formed new habits and will have new experiences of church to process – possibly even experiences that they may wish to keep.

Should we explore a different model of church with fortnightly big church stuff and fortnightly small church stuff? Should we keep broadcasting our services? Great for those who just can’t get there – but equally adequate for those who just can’t be bothered. If you teach at a Christian school and need to attend a church does watching a 30 minute video each week suffice?

Personally I miss seeing the church family – but with it being a long time since my last holidays I am also enjoying the breather that we are experiencing. What were long, full days have now become empty, slow days and I am grateful for the chance to change pace.

I’m not sure too many have begun asking ‘what if we are still in this space in 2 years time?’ The assumption we hold is that things will get better with a vaccine or with immunity, but if anything has been shown to us it’s that we just can’t predict the future.

1 thought on “The Year We Stopped Going to Church

  1. Definitely a new era and we need to stay flexible and ready to adapt to God’s plan for the future.. He knows and there is always a little anticipation and excitement in looking forward to seeing what God brings out of all this. Val.

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