As LA is now preparing to go to the least restrictive, yellow level of caution, I have found myself pondering on the question of “moving forward.” We want to look at the year of lockdown, not as a lost year, but reflect on the ways God may have redeemed the pandemic; we want to take what we have learned from the past year to build a better Church in the future.
We have learned that fellowship, or meaningful spiritual connection with one another, is what we cherish the most about being a faith community, such as: supporting one another through difficult times, celebrating together all the good that happened in our lives, grieving together with the losses we experienced, serving the community together, and most importantly, sharing the feast table.
Because we value our time together, we need to rethink what the “Church” might look like in the future. We need to reimagine what the main gathering events of a faith community may look like post-pandemic. I am convinced that the “pre-pandemic church” will not satisfy our souls’ needs in the future. The deep longing for genuine human connection will call us to change our thoughts on what it means for us to be a church.
Historically, religious gatherings were occasional community celebrations based on seasons, and festivals were based on shared events such as harvesting and planting. Over time, communities created various life passages to celebrate people’s life such as the young people transitioning into adulthood, created celebrations as young people decided to start a life together, and created ways for people to remember those who went before them. But now, emphasis has been placed on the Sunday gathering.
The church gathering weekly for worship developed when Constantine made Christianity the state religion. He instituted Christianity to replace other religions in the area by copying the Jewish Sabbath. Church leaders later changed the calendar and moved the day of worship to the first day of the week.
So as we now practice a ritual that was put into place about 2000 years ago in a political ploy by Constantine, we need to think about how to make our gatherings relevant for us in our time. In modern life, the sacredness of daily life carries greater meaning as work is no longer a punishment, and rest, no longer a momentary respite from punishment. Work is now seen as a part of our spiritual quest to experience God, express our creativeness.
So as we emphasize the sacredness of human existence or enjoying our creativeness, we need to find new expressions of how we encourage and uphold one another on our journeys. I am convinced that weekly worship service is not enough, but we need new, more profound, and more connected experiences with a greater celebration of each person present.
Let us think deeply about new ways we can gather as people of faith to encourage each other.