Gimme that online religion: The Coronavirus is challenging churches to sing a different tune

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, persons of faith and no faith in a public deity are discovering the challenges and invitations of silence and solitude, of family and face-to- face time, of community and solidarity.  With the call to not gather in large groups, the closure of public schools and cancellation of sporting events, flights, cruises, vacations and theater productions, the mandate to live in isolation presents us with an opportunity to examine ourselves and the world we have created.  We are reminded of what we have and have not done, said or become.  The stock market has crashed, taken off and crashed again.  There is talk of an economic depression.  As businesses close for a deep cleaning and persons go home and stay there, the world is getting quieter and darker.

When everything is scaled back and mortality is discussed on a global scale, the meaning of life and what we really need is the question.  And there are others.  What is the Church fundamentally— building or body?  What does the Church believe in times of crisis: pray or pray and wash your hands?  What is the meaning of our fellowship?  Coronavirus and the cross, what are we dying for?

More questions are presented to the preacher.  Richard Lischer writes in The End of Words, “If there is to be preaching, all it can do is conform itself to the life of Christ in the community. … The preacher’s job is at once easier and more impossible than many have imagined, for he or she is trying to do nothing less than shape the language of the sermon to a living reality among the people of God—to make it conform to Jesus.”[1]   What do you say when you don’t know what will happen next?  When a hundred thousand people and counting have been infected with this virus?  When thousands of people around the world have died?  When entire countries are under quarantine?

There is certainly the need for a fresh wind, for the Holy Spirit, for pneuma.

Many churches are choosing to stream their worship services live, to share a pre- recorded sermon of the pastor preaching to empty pews or to cancel the service altogether.  The door of the Church are closed.  This Coronavirus has revealed more vulnerabilities than Christian leaders had accounted for.  An aging Church that dyes its hair and refuses to admit that it cannot move like it use to must now consider the youth and young adults– not only if wants to live beyond its retirement and social security benefits but if it wants someone to work the equipment tomorrow.  The Church of the future is now.  We cannot pass the plates or even meet face- to- face without six feet of space between us.

Clearly, the Church is present but many of its members are way too late.  Because how can they hear the preacher unless you stream the service?  And how can you stream the service without an audio-visual team?  And how can you have an audio-visual team if you have defunded or reduced the youth ministry budget for twenty consecutive years.  Fighting for hymns and choir robes, this all sounds silly now.  The Church might want to show up for the next rehearsal and sing a different tune now.

Jesus words written in red, it took the Coronavirus for us to break with our traditions.

_____

[1] Richard Lischer, The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 7-8.

 

 

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

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