Yesterday (Sunday), I wanted to post this, but it was Sunday, so I opted for some family time over computer time :)
It was the first day our church was open for services for everyone. Volunteers went for a few weeks before this. Then information was released and it was opened so anyone could attend. But, you did have to register first. It was also only open to the first 300 people. First come, first serve church. It had to be done some way.
I'm not complaining at all. I know our church and they have spent this past year preparing for this day. Planning, running tests with volunteers about how to navigate the challenges of making it a safe experience for everyone. I can't imagine those first phone calls between pastors and staff. I used to be in leadership in my church many years ago. I've thought many times how I would have reacted. Probably just stunned silence. So, I'm breathing a sigh of relief that they on their way back to functioning fully as intended. They do good things, they do good work. They help lead people to Christ and change lives. I have friends who've been back at church for months. They go to much smaller churches with not as many logistics or sheer people to manage. We happen to go to what some might consider a mega-church (I've seen much larger though), but it's a mega church compared to any small town church.
Sunday mornings for us meant a bit of reunion of sorts with friends after we each survived a busy week. We would see certain friends as we walked through the halls. We'd meet greeters at the doors to the sanctuary and some Sundays my friend, a fellow "dance Mom". would be there we'd hug and update each other on our now college aged kids and what was happening. We'd see people we'd known for years. It seemed every week we would meet someone new! Then we'd go in and find a seat and either save seats for friends or find friends who'd saved seats for us. There was almost always someone around us who was visiting for the first time, and as old as we are, the world gets smaller and smaller so there was always a surprising story or connection to be found.
We would sit as close as we could, leaving no seats in between us because during the opening announcements, we'd always do the Sunday morning "scoot" to make room for those who were arriving right as the service was starting. Maybe they were parking, running to the bathroom, getting a child settled in the nursery, etc. We'd leave the end seats of each row open if there were seats, so they could easily find a seat without having to climb over someone in the "dark". We'd always explain it to any new visitors. The reason I'm sitting so close to you is if I don't do it now, I'm going to be in the next few minutes so we might as well just get it over with now! haha! They were probably thinking what is wrong with these people? haha Then they understood.
After a few announcements, we'd all turn to those all around us and shake as many hands as we could, maybe even hug if it was a friend.
We stood for opening singing, very close sometimes, close to the area where the singers and musicians were. I like sitting up front. I feel more engaged. When you get older, it helps you stay awake, too. hahaha Plus I was raised Baptist and we seemed to fill the back half of the church first! ha!
This brings back a memory, of my time in choir at one church I attended. We had a guest soloist, and as a choir, we sang with them, which was a great experience. However, after a few rehearsals, when it came time for the performance, we all had a little trouble singing and not laughing and keeping our composure. It turns out once the stage lights were on (there weren't that many, but just enough), the singer unknowingly would SPIT as they sang and it traveled for miles it seemed. (actually it was just like a shower spray, it was a lot!!) No, not every singer does this. But it was one of those perfect storms. I don't think the congregation/audience could see it at all. But so many of us in the choir could and we were weak with laughter at some points. Thank heavens there were more mature people that kept singing and didn't notice the hilarious situation, haha!
I never imagined in my lifetime that there would come a day I would go this long without setting foot in a church. I've been going since I was born, I guess. I wonder if it's changed us all, or are there some people who've managed just fine with online services and sermons? It seems like maybe it's an advantage to be young during all this, because you just adapt and go on with your life.
Thankfully, in a church building or watching online or doing nothing but reading your Bible and prayer, we know God has not gone anywhere. We may feel like we've drifted away, but I feel like I've been tethered by Him the whole time. Maybe some days just by my husband reassuring me of hope and showing love. Friends who've been there reminding me to take care of myself not just physically, but mentally, too. I'm guilty of always worrying about others, and putting off myself. I miss my people, I miss church, I miss singing, I miss providing music. I'm going to look for somewhere in the interim that I can attend outside, just to be safe. I pray this time we've had helps me never take it for granted again.
What have you done this past year to stay connected and engaged, and what has worship looked like for you?