by Ogbeche Ohotuowo
Going to church is an important part of practicing the Christian faith for many people.
In Hebrews 10:25, St. Paul advocated that Christians should fellowship together when he said: “And let us consider together how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
For many Christians, their physical community or fellowship is a source of support especially when things are confusing, just as this present time. But the very essence of our lockdown restrictions prescribe that we reduce these physical meet-ups as much as possible. The shoulder to lean on may still exist, but it is virtual. Christians therefore have a hard time readjusting their learned instinct of reaching out physically to their pastor or other church members. It’s hard to get used to using Zoom or talking over the phone with your fellowship group, when you used to meet regularly and hold hands in fellowship.
Christians also miss the little acts that make church service special. At home, we can’t dance the way we do during church service. Nobody said you can’t dance in your house, but does your home theatre or mini speaker sound the same way as your church’s sound system? Can you dance your way to altar do deliver your tithe while you’re at home? Can you hold up the offering line by dancing really slowly? Is there even anybody dancing with you?
We can’t fully dress up to go to church. For the first Sunday after lockdown began, many people wore their Sunday clothes to sit in front of their TV or computer but how many people are still doing that? Most people, if you still stream services, now lie down in bed in their nightclothes, while they watch the preacher. It just doesn’t bang as hard as it used to. Some people just want to wear those church outfits, not merely for TikTok videos, but also for actual koinonia and meeting people. They miss people complimenting their dressing. They miss wearing makeup. They really miss the after church pictures and #SundaySelfies.
We can’t hug other people or shake hands when we worship from home. When the pastor or priest says: “Tell your neighbour that this is going to be a favourable week.” Do you tweet it or do you send it via WhatsApp? When you clap for Jesus from the living room does it sound hollow and lonely or is it perfectly normal?
At home too, you can’t take communion physically. You have to channel your faith to believe that you’re receiving this communion in truth and spirit, while you try not to allow yourselves to be distracted by your neighbour’s dog or generator.
For people who live alone, they know that they are actually gathered with other people, but they can’t seem to forget that they are actually physically alone. Somehow, this does not have the feeling of gathering in God’s presence like Jesus urged in Matthew 18:20. Streaming your church service or mass online has the feeling of your regular morning prayers but not the “I went to church today” feeling.
Some others just miss going for choir rehearsals. Unfortunately for them, their family members don’t have the range to sing all the voice parts with them.
So the reason why people miss church the way they do is not just about the physical building (not really) because the people are the church, but they miss the physical closeness of being with people, the gathering of like-minded people for one purpose. Although this is harder than we may like to admit, the most important thing to bear in mind is that you are indeed gathered with other people in God’s name, even if virtually.
It would help to remember that you don’t need to meet physically to be close, or to “spur one another toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). You can and should do this frequently, over your phone; remembering that the intention and effect are the same while being hopeful that when the world heals, you will again have the gift of being physically close to your community.
Like the early church in Acts 2:42 you can still “devote [yourselves] to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” from the comfort of your homes; because corona is still outside.