clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lessons from COVID-19 will lead to long-lived new traditions in houses of worship

Traditions, like, all that hugging and greeting with a kiss. How about “turn to your neighbor and say…?” Will there still be the laying on of hands during prayer?

Due to COVID-19, many church leaders have turned to the internet as a vehicle of transmitting sermons, worship service and also connecting the body of believers.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

I am the grandson of a preacher man and admittedly a recovering church-aholic who, since the pandemic, has found himself with good company as a full-fledged member of Bedside Baptist.

But fear not, my dear brothers and sisters! As a longtime member of Bedside Baptist, I want to extend the right hand of fellowship, and also to firmly declare: You are not a heathen!

While many houses of worship have resumed limited capacity, in-person worship services and other activities since the outbreak last year and state-issued restrictions on social gatherings, I suspect that some lessons from the storm called COVID-19 will lead to long-lived new traditions. I also suspect that some longstanding previously unquestioned church traditions likely will be challenged whenever things do get back to some semblance of normal amid those changes necessitated to the church’s change in program due to coronavirus.

Traditions, like, er um, all that hugging and greeting with a kiss. How about “turn to your neighbor and say…?” Will there still be the laying on of hands during prayer?

And what about the belief that “salvation” is irrevocably tied to loyal church attendance? Especially in light of thousands upon thousands of Christians not going to church or attending only sparsely over the last year.

Do sermons really have to last for an unbearable grueling hour? Can members actually fellowship, pray and minister to others in times like these, where it is crystal clear that the need for a social Gospel lies well beyond the church’s walls?

Who woulda thunk it? I’ve long been a believer.

A believer that the biblical call of “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” is not a command to go to church but a command to be the church. A believer that, as Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Some of my evangelically minded brothers and sisters have chided me over the years for my absence from the pews on Sundays, where they surmise every good Christian must be found. Except since the pandemic, many across American Christendom have found themselves as members of Zoom Temple or Morning Glory Facebook Live.

I gotta admit, I attend. And I dig it. Amen.

Indeed many church leaders have turned to the internet as a vehicle of transmitting sermons, worship service and also connecting the body of believers.

From where I sit, that’s a good thing. In fact, the widespread use of the internet by churches big and small appears to be ushering in a new dispensation of technologically-based church worship and fellowship.

The good news? Some of my pastoral friends report a spike in “Sunday service attendance” with hundreds or thousands additionally electronically tuning in.

The Lord works in mysterious ways… Hallelujah!

Except, it may turn out to be a double-edged sword, eliminating some traditions and ushering in new ones rooted in glaring old truths. I call them “Lessons from The Pandemic:”

No. 5 — It really doesn’t take all day. Zoom is free for 40 minutes or less.

No. 4 — Whooping, stomping and throat clearing do not transmit well over streaming with no in-person live audience.

No. 3 — There is a difference between pastor-shepherds and pastor-shearers.

No. 2 — You “sho nuff” (as my grandmother would say) better know how to get your praise on at home all by yourself, and also know how to pray for yourself. (By the way, what happened to all those faith healers and “prophets” in the age of COVID-19?)

No. 1 — Our faith does not rest in the church but upon the Christ.

Now touch your screen, brothers and sisters, and shout, “Hallelujah!”

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com