A Different Kind of Worship
During this time of this pandemic, one positive that has come from this has been a reassessment of what worship is about. We, as a society, have often fallen into the trap of thinking that worship is about US. What WE like, the hymns and style of music WE like, what WE think should be worn by leaders and attendees. It is our nature, especially in a commercial, consumer driven world.
That is actually backwards. We worship God, its about what GOD likes. God is the object of our worship, and God is pleased anytime we approach our Lord in worship. We continue to worship God, even when we cannot be physically present. God likes that you are present for worship in your living room, even if you are in your bathrobe. God likes that you are present for worship, even if your voice cracks as you sing along, or pray responsively with the worship leaders. God likes that you are there, EVEN though things are different.
There will be a time when we gather in person again for worship. Your Session discussed this in our meeting on Thursday, May 14th, and felt that it is not yet time to bring our congregation back together. Our Presbytery has made statements to the same effect, that the time has not yet come. Sadly, most mainline congregation members are in a category considered at risk, as a result we are seeking to be very careful before opening up again. When the decision is made to open up, it will be communicated in the following ways:
• a postal mailing to all newsletter recipients
• an e-mail similar to our E-manna
• on our website
• on Facebook
• and on our phone voicemail system
When we do begin gathering in person, things will look different for some time:
• Every other pew will be used for seating
• To protect each other, we will wear masks as congregants (worship leaders most likely will as well), since it is possible to transmit this virus without knowing you are ill. Masks will be provided for people to keep. Those that are left behind can be safely washed for re-use.
• Ushers will be seating individual households together, at least six feet apart in pews
• Ushers will be seating worshipers on a First-In/Last-Out pattern to avoid worshipers passing each other necessarily.
• During the time of greeting/passing of the peace we will do so safely, with a nod or wave to our fellow worshipers.
• Bibles can be taken home and brought back to worship by the same family unit, but will not remain in the pews for re-use
• Unfortunately, singing transmits potential virus particles six times more than speaking, as a result, we will most likely not have congregational or choral singing in person for awhile
• To protect the congregation, there may be Plexiglas shields in front of our worship leader and pastors in order to minimize the risk of unwilling exposure to worshipers by worship leadership
• Pastors will be preaching from the pulpit for the time being
• Children’s Moment will still occur, but we will have the children remain with their families rather then gathering together at the steps of the sanctuary.
• We will encourage electronic giving, or dropping off offerings in a box at the entrances to the sanctuary, rather then passing the offering plates
• Sealed bread and sealed grape juice will be in place on the pews on Communion Sundays to avoid the passing of communion trays
• Coffee fellowship after worship will not occur in the early stages
• We will continue to offer worship through electronic streaming on Facebook live and YouTube, for those who do not feel comfortable, or are unable, to begin worshiping with us in person when we do begin to open up.
• We will have a low power FM radio broadcast available for people who would like to “gather” in their cars while worship is occurring, and be able to visually see people and wave to each other as people arrive and leave the sanctuary.
• Meetings will continue to be virtual until well after the time we gather to worship, again minimizing unnecessary gatherings
I know this list is daunting, and things will be different. I am as grieved as many of you are by the changes that will be happening, however, the church should never be the place that causes unnecessary harm in the world.
We must keep reminding ourselves that worship is not about US, it is about God. Even with all of these changes, however long the various stages might last, God is still Holy, God is still worshiped, which is our primary reason for doing what we do at First Presbyterian Church of Omaha, in the words of the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever!