Debra Griffis-Woodberry, Pinnacle Associate
One Sunday recently, I decided to worship on line. With my coffee in hand and kicked back in a recliner I tuned in to a live stream of a rural church’s worship service. I was previously associated with the church and the congregation; so, I recognized people and felt warm feelings of friendship as I watched and listened to the choir and children’s moment. The pastor’s sermon was inspiring. The hymns were traditional and I knew them well. I was worshipping God in my recliner! I felt connected to God and the congregation. That warm connection faded when the Sacrament of Holy Communion was given. I felt my absence. To benefit fully, I needed the physical touch and taste of the bread and wine and the immediate presence of sisters and brothers at the table.
Next, I tuned in to the live stream of another church. I knew of the church remotely. Friends who are members there have reported to me the excitement and spiritual benefits they experience. Also, I knew of this church’s good reputation as a new church that is making a real difference in its locale. The meeting area was not a traditional church building. I was impressed with the mission, ministry and nurture opportunities that were referenced in the opening announcements. The songs were contemporary and accompanied by a very talented guitarist. The sermon was incredibly prepared and nuanced. The preacher had obvious passion about the topic. I could see the reasons my friends were a part of this. I also knew that it takes exhausting energy from the preacher/pastor to present such a sermon along with the other necessary duties of pastoral leadership. I was reminded of the importance of life balance wellness for clergy.
I tuned into yet another worship service that Sunday morning. It was the traditional 11am service at an historical, well established church. I went there because I support their strength and leadership in social justice matters. The choir accompanied by the organ was outstanding. Two associate pastors along with laity lead the service. The sermon was well written and delivered. I appreciated the hymns that were familiar. During the Sacrament of Holy Communion, I was aware that it was a nicely adapted version of the standard liturgy. I liked it. The two pastors alternated flawlessly in their presentation, as the lay helpers offered experienced help. It all looked easy, but I knew that preparation had preceded the time of worship. I imagined that the pastors’ feet were tired at the end of this late service.
I offer three observations from my live stream worship experience. First, it is a marvelous ministry tool especially for folks who can not be present because of work, illness, travel, etc. Also it is a gentle way for persons who are “Dones” or Nones” to get a good glimpse.
Secondly, I realized that, “You have to be there”. Of course, the presence of Christ is not limited to sanctuaries or any space. Yet, there is power and perspective in being physically present with a community of disciples with whom one shares life and ministry. Christ followers need a home community.
Thirdly, being church is a lot of work. There is the work of discipleship/sanctification as one grows in faith development. Then, there is the work of maintaining the organization. Too often church leadership gets too tired from all the work of maintaining an institution.
When leadership become tired and avoid respite opportunities they are on the precipice of becoming a “Done”. One day, they realize, “I am done” and concurrently declare, “I’m out of here.”
One way to keep our energy while working hard is to give ourselves to work that connects with our core values and self identity. It is much easier to function effectively when we are living into all that God has created and called us to be.
We are living in an important defining season of church history. Today’s church can make a relevant difference for God’s Kingdom and our world.
We have to be there and it will be a lot of work.