Three years ago, my spouse and I moved into a 98 year old home in Baltimore city. We knew it needed work, but the potential was there. Fast forward to this summer where there aren’t big renovations happening, but rather little projects here and there and never ending yard work. In this current season of life, that’s all we can do realistically if we want to be smart with our finances.
For the last year, this home has been a place of peace in the midst of chaos. Early on in the shutdown, when we knew very little about this COVID-19 pandemic, we enjoyed the space with puzzles and watching movies. I was thankful to have a space to work remotely and get so much accomplished. Technology has been a true gift in this season for continual connection as we missed our physical gatherings.
For over a year now, it’s been my rhythm and ritual also to worship at home. I wake up, make coffee and prepare the space in front of my computer to engage with the community in the virtual setting and worship my Savior.
Similar to the small projects that have renovated our house into a home, this practice of worship and time with God has refreshed my relationship with Him.
In the midst of conflict and turmoil at work, I could still set aside time and space to rest in His arms. In the unknown of a dangerous virus, I could listen to worship music as I did yard work.
I’ve seen this post floating around, shared by fellow professional colleagues.
I get the sentiment, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The church building isn’t a safe space for everyone.
When I woke up on Sunday morning, we were in the middle of one of our house projects, painting a room typically used as my office, closet and worship space (old house, multi purpose room). I’ve worshipped on the front porch and in the living room, so to move to a different space wasn’t a big deal. But this past weekend, something was different. I had no motivation to participate. This sounds like a typical excuse, right? However, it concerned me because it’s a rare feeling.
I looked at the calendar and realized I was approaching an anniversary. Last year at this time, I was overwhelmed by the turmoil in my workplace, a church. Tensions were rising on a daily basis. I was continuing my responsibilities while privately having regular panic attacks. I was in the midst of reconciliation with a co-worker and unsure of the next steps.
Just a few days later after God called me to leave that position, Jesus followers lied and were lied to at a worship service. The physical space and community had been desecrated. I feel like Jesus would have flipped pews (if they weren’t screwed to the ground).
Wherever we worship, we come broken and sinful, in desperate need for forgiveness. Even still, knowing this terrible thing occurred in such a sacred place still makes me shutter.
So last Sunday morning I didn’t engage in worship right at 10am with a community of believers in a virtual setting. But because of the gift of technology, I did listen to worship as I continued the renovation of a room in our house later that afternoon. It was worship in the presence of God and with a community of believers, even if it wasn’t the same or in that physical space.
God is always working on renovating our hearts, and I can see a difference from a year ago. God has also opened my heart to the wounds of so many who have disconnected from church communities. I never really understood why someone wouldn’t come. I never understood why people couldn’t lay aside their hurt and anger, often towards fellow Christians, to be with God.
But the wounds are layered, complex and hard to explain. And the reality is that just because someone isn’t physically present with others in worship, doesn’t make them less than or someone of shallow faith. In the deep hurt of this year, I have grown more deeply in my relationship with Jesus.
I would also beg to differ on the point that you can’t serve the church from your home.
I think of the passage regarding the Body of Christ. We are all different and therefore, God will use our gifts and abilities to serve His Church in all the possible ways.
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.1 Corinthians 12:18-20 (ESV)
For the individuals who monitor the chat and prayer requests during a live stream…Thank you.
For those who are recording readings and songs to include in worship…Thank you.
For those who are making prayer cards as you listen to requests…Thank you.
For those who are leading online Bible study between services…Thank you.
I look forward to the opportunity to gather again for worship in a physical space with fellow believers. I don’t plan to worship through a screen forever. But the renovation of my heart, just like the renovation of my home, is a work in progress. Thankfully, God is with me every step of the way.