By Snr Ps Beh Soo Yeong
The staff team is in the midst of our discernment and planning process for next year. This year’s planning is quite different from previous ones. For one, we are meeting over Zoom almost all the time – no physical retreat, no extended time of fellowship etc. But more importantly, there is a sense of uncertainty when it comes to what is going to happen next year. Will we get the vaccine soon enough to return to normalcy? What does normalcy mean anyway?
One of the questions that we are grappling with is whether and when the church can return to our physical gatherings, with (or without) singing and fellowship. Of course, there are several permutations regarding how and when we can meet physically but allow me to share the following as we pray and seek the Lord for the journey ahead.
In the short term (i.e. the next few months), how will we continue our worship services? For a while now, we have been streaming our main worship services online. At the same time, we started our Communion services a month ago, where each service includes songs which we meditate on and sing in our hearts, a short devotional sermon, and the Holy Communion. Even with only fifty persons gathering without singing audibly, it does not make us any less of a church.
We have noticed, however, that not all the places in these services are filled. Is it because some are wary of potential infections? Or are we just not that “into” Communion? Or have we, perhaps, grown so used to not coming back for physical gatherings? May I encourage you to return for physical gatherings. As the Lord leads and enables you, gather with us, because the church is both scattered and gathered. Coming together allows us to encourage one another towards love and good deeds. Gathering is a visible testimony to others that our faith trumps our fears, and we have a hope far greater and more eternal than having a vaccine. Furthermore, gathering for Communion, as instituted and commanded by Christ, is so much more meaningful in such a time as this, for it visibly reminds us of what Christ has done and is doing for and in us as a community of faith. It is a means of grace in which we experience the very presence of Christ in our lives. Besides, I am sure many of you would much prefer to see each other in the flesh than in pixels!
It seems then, that having our main worship services streamed online, coupled with our fortnightly physical gatherings for Communion services will be our modus operandi at least till the end of this year. At the same time, pray along with the leaders as we seek the Lord for guidance beyond this year, if we should bring these two services together. This would mean resuming our weekly weekend worship gatherings onsite, with the usual praise and worship segment (whether singing audibly or not), preaching and fortnightly partaking of Communion.
At the same time, we are deliberating if we should continue to stream these services online when we meet physically. On the one hand, some are concerned that if we continue to provide an online option to the physical worship service, we will give each other an “easy way out”. After all, some of us are getting used to staying at home on a lazy Sunday morning, perhaps waking up just in time for the service. Or if we are late, to just log on anytime we want. Very convenient. But are we promoting and encouraging a kind of faith that is consumeristic and even narcissistic?
On the other hand, online worship services have been a big help for us during this period. Various people who previously had no access to our worship services are now able to join us. Some are overseas in places where physical services are unavailable. Some are still seeking to understand the faith and find it challenging to step into a church physically. Others are caregivers who are unable to sit through the entire service without being interrupted. An online option accompanying our physical worship services will allow such ones to remain plugged into our church worship services.
These are some of the considerations we are grappling with, and I hope that by sharing them with you, you will pray along with us and consider your own posture and attitude towards worship, now and in the future when we gather again.