Corporate worship. It is worship we do together. But in our current Covid-19 era we cannot be together and also keep one another safe. As a kid growing up in East Texas and not being impressed with televangelists, watching church on TV just didn’t seem like church to me. I am not a fan of online worship because I want to be with others during worship. But as many of us say about our virtual experiences with others, “it’s not the same as the real thing but it’s better than nothin’.”
In March our Centering Prayer group started meeting over Zoom. We would have our meeting and discussion and then all sign off before our time of prayer. It just seemed odd to me to sit in silence with others online. One reason we meet together in person as a group is because there is sometimes an almost palpable energy and depth of presence praying together with others that is not the same as when we’re by ourselves at home. But it was still good to see one another and talk over Zoom. Last summer there was a Centering Prayer retreat that was completely virtual. I did not attend, but the group that did attend stayed online with one another during the time of prayer. The members of our group all reported their awareness of a similar added depth and presence during the prayer time when they stayed with one another online during the prayer sits. So, at the end of our meeting, our local group started praying together remaining online. I discovered they were correct about an added depth and presence when our prayer time was truly corporate, even online. We might have called it virtual but the Holy Spirit transcends what we call virtual and makes it just as real as when we meet together. I admit the ‘doubting Thomas’ in me might not have believed if I had not seen it with my own spiritual eyes. Even in a “virtual” world of gathering, Matthew 18:20 rings true, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”
When we truly gather together for worship or prayer, even if we’re not physically beside each other, Jesus is there, especially when we are there all at the same time online participating. Worship is not a spectator sport, rather it is corporate, shared.
Over the next few weeks we will be trying to integrate more parts of our normal liturgy including group prayers, music we can sing at the same time with Terri playing the piano and one of our folks singing the hymn or chorus. We’ll have corporate confessions of sin we can all read/pray together at the same time. We’re even going to try responsive Calls to Worship and readings of the Psalms. Even though we’ll not all read together at the same pace and won’t hear everyone else, I highly encourage you to participate in your part of our corporate liturgy. Maybe it will feel a little hokey at first, as it did to me sitting in silence with 8 other people praying online, but I ask you to be open to what the Holy Spirit will do to tie us together. If it feels weird to you, then I will be right there with you feeling the same thing. But feeling weird is a common way the Holy Spirit tends to get under our skin to notice its Presence. And remember, worship is not a spectator sport. We’re all in this together with the one that connects us, the Spirit of God.