Faith Column: Missing the way things used to be
To be perfectly honest, I have been praying that I wouldn’t have to write another faith article while COVID-19 and the pandemic associated with it were still so prevalent, but it appears that the pandemic will be with us for a while. Recently I was explaining to a new member of our congregation how our church is set up and how the sanctuary is used when it occurred to me that almost everything that I explained had changed in the last year.
We can no longer use our parish hall and kitchen for Bible studies and congregational meetings since there is inadequate space to guarantee social distancing (a term unheard of in the not-so-distant past).
Our sanctuary pews no longer have Bibles or the Book of Common Prayer or hymnals or anything that can’t be sanitized after every use. We can’t sing hymns because we would need to expand our social distancing to thirty feet, rather than six-foot distancing. We have mask requirements, hand sanitizing requirements, sanitizing our plastic covered notebooks, and we can’t walk into the sanctuary the same way we walk out.
Our lectern is now placed in front of the altar so that it may be used as the Zoom platform camera and microphone and we have a computer set up for Zoom use inside the altar area. I can’t preach from the main aisle while amongst the congregation since that would violate social distancing requirements and we can’t pass the offering plate for the same reason.
Church worship is therefore somewhat the same and yet vastly different from what anyone remembers. The wonderful aspect among all of this information is that we are able to worship in our worship space, and we are able to participate in sharing Holy Eucharist together.
What I miss most about the “way things used to be” is the loss of the tactile. Touch and contact with others have disappeared from our worship service. Being able to see more of a person’s face than their eyes has disappeared.
No handshaking, and especially no hugging has had an impact upon us.
The feeling of intimacy among a community of believers is being eroded at a rate that has never been experienced since the Influenza pandemic of 1918, and yet we persevere in our worship since that it what melds us together as a community within a community. We abide by the rules since that is what we are called to do, to love one another and to not take a chance of infecting others through our failure to abide by the rules.
I hope that in the near future I can explain to a new member of our congregation that we do what the Lord calls us to do to be effective in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Soon, and very soon, I pray that this will be behind us, that we will have persevered through the pandemic and that we have loved one another while we stayed in the right relationship with the Lord God Almighty.
The Rev. Bain White is the priest/pastor at St. Mark’s Church of Grace, Craig, Colorado. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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