(This entry is part of an ongoing collection of blogs that examine the future of congregations post-COVID19. Each entry forms itself around a question looking for clarity or even answers.)
Because of COVID19 cautions in our congregations, the theologies and practices of worship may have changed in substantial ways. To limit exposure to this harmful virus, we’ve shortened liturgies, suspended congregational singing, eliminated choirs, maintained physical separation in the sanctuary and cut sermons, prayers and Scripture readings down to a minimum amount of time. Even though worshipful attitudes and thoughts have remained, our times of gathered adoration, praise, prayer and reverence may have devolved into extended devotions.
In its online manifestations, worship may have become essentially an observation experience—watching the narrow window of what was previously a sensory-rich event. Online participants may have become less-active or less-engaged during worship. The technologies of virtual worship may have refocused leaders’ priorities towards the guiding metrics and practices of audience engagement. Worship may have become solitary—individuals or families watching screens, and separated from the larger body of worshippers. The psychology and sociology of entertainment may have supplanted deeper spiritual awareness.
What could come of these changes? One answer: A lasting shift in the nature of worship itself. Awe and mystery maybe harder to discover or share. Timeless rites and practices perhaps shunted to the side. Liturgy (“the work of the people”) possibly stripped of some of its life-changing emotions. Fewer people attending in-person worship services.
On the positive side: A variety of worshippers now able to access a wide variety of spiritual food from anywhere, at any time. Multi-use devotional experiences available for small groups, house churches, invalids, strangers. Churches expanding worship’s purpose to include individuals they will never meet—“proclamation” taken seriously.
Life without worship of any kind leaves room for idolatries to soak into our souls, which can destroy us as assuredly as the COVID19 virus. We can be assured, though: God’s people will always worship!
In whatever form….
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