Worship during COVID-19

Worship during COVID-19

The beliefs and values that ground our worship are…

God is with us. Our worship believes in and seeks to recognize God’s presence, in new and possibly less familiar ways. God is present to us in all places or times, bidden or not. We miss the sacraments; but that which the sacraments effect in particular places and times – the presence of God in the church and creation – remains effective in all places and times.

We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Our worship, especially where and how it happens, is guided by God’s call to love and care for our neighbor above all else. It is overwhelming and heartbreaking that we cannot worship in person together right now. This heartbreak is not because of a building, but because of our deep love for one another. There are fears – real fears –  about how church is changing due to this pandemic. We will name and claim our fears, so they do not claim us. But we will not act from that place of fear – we will choose love, which means we will not worship in ways that would put any of the people we love at risk. This will be an ongoing conversation, and love for one another will be our guide.

We must live. Our worship looks different, but it is not a substitute or place-holder. Our worship is real worship. Our lives have been changed by this pandemic, but our lives are not on hold. God does not desire for us to “just get through” this crisis. We’re not holding our breath here – we will continue to faithfully seek God and love our neighbor in ways that speak to our time and recognize that we are creative and resilient and that God is faithful. We are still the Church. In a time when people are desperate and lonely, we must live into our call to love one another as Christ loves us.

We must live in hope. Our worship seeks to always embody Christian hope. All that we share and offer in ministry is grounded in discernment that understands and claims Christian hope and the promise of the resurrection: through Jesus Christ, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.

We must live fully. Our worship holds space for all of the emotions and experiences of this moment and human life. Life is mourning and rejoicing. We lament, and we praise. This has always been true. Privilege has enabled many of us to ignore pain and suffering. However, this moment requires our attention to the full experience of living, and to those who have lived without this privilege. So, too, our worship must reflect the full, complicated nature of this moment and our human lives. 

We are people formed by our seasons and by our feasts. Our worship moves us deeper into the Christian year and liturgical calendar. The ways most of us mark our lives have changed. The routines that structured our time are absent: school day, office hours, soccer practice, Sunday School, summer vacation. As Christians, we have another calendar meant to mark our time and guide the rhythm of our lives: our liturgical calendar. Most of the time, we pop into this calendar through familiar seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter. During COVID-19, we will move deeper into this Christian calendar, opening our lives to the rhythms of time grounded in our story as God’s people.

We all have wisdom and gifts. Our worship engages our personal and corporate gifts. We are doing our best ministry when we lead from our gifts. This time is an opportunity for people to discern and share their gifts, perhaps in ways never considered and even in ways that were not possible previously. How are your gifts being called out of you right now?

We are particular people in a particular place and time. Our worship will be responsive to the needs of our community. Context matters and the Spirit moves in surprising ways. As we move through this pandemic, we will discern continuously what is working and what is not, with honesty and openness. Some services or programs may meet the need of a moment but do not need to continue as a rote routine. Some of the best things we create will be by accident. For the sustainability of our staff and the well-being of our entire community, we commit to staying flexible, relevant, and faithful and to following the Spirit. 

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The Rev. Claire Nevin-Field

The Rev. Claire Nevin-Field is the rector of St. Peter's Church.

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