Online church is not quite the same right? Why? Here are a few thoughts.
Rituals are an important part of creating and affirming ‘meaning’. On the whole, we evangelicals poo-poo rituals. We associate them Catholicism, and sacramentalism – the idea that somehow we are saved by practising rituals.
Rituals are far more complex and nuanced than just the big obvious ceremonies. Getting dressed up, hoping in your car as a family, and driving together to Church is a ritual. As is dropping off the kids, saying hello to friends, sitting in your favourite seat, and singing the first two songs. All of these rituals help prepare your soul for a spiritual encounter. In COVID times these rituals are all gone.
Add to that an appreciation that Church is a sacred place. It is ‘consecrated’. Again as evangelicals, we get nervous by such talk. But contrast church with home. The Church Building is a ‘set apart’ space, where we have become conditioned to listening, being encouraged or challenged, fellowshipping – focusing on God and our relationship with him as his children. The kitchen table in front of the computer has nothing of this history, exclusivity, or aura.
A recent survey by the Diocese affirmed previous research. Parishioners were asked a range of questions. For people who reported that they are growing in their faith – two factors most correlate with personal growth. Namely a sense of belonging to a local congregation/church; and the experience of church services. Both of these are absent in COVID times.
I miss normal church, as I hear many of you do also. There are reasonable grounds why online church is not the same. My encouragement to you is this: don’t mistake your understandable feelings as leading to the conclusion that watching online church is not worth it. Agreed – online church is not the same. But it’s better than nothing, and it’s what we’ve got at the moment.
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