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Virtual Church Meetings in a Time of Plague

Rev. Gregory Reynolds

The relative inability of our churches to adapt easily through electronic means to the new “social distancing” mandates for Lord’s Day meetings is a great comfort to me. It demonstrates our deep commitment to the central importance of personal presence in public worship, the gathering of God’s people. It means that we do not believe that virtual connectedness can ever replace actual presence. The Lord’s Supper testifies to the historical reality of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior. It is impossible, along with the rest of worship, to administer electronically. The degree to which we are blessed by the use of various digital platforms to connect is more a testimony our original face to face relationships than it is to the awkward distance virtual images provide.

Having said this we must temporarily adapt to the well-meant quarantines that civil magistrates have imposed upon us. So, I have a few suggestions to help us navigate this foreign territory.

We should assist congregants in the proper use of various platforms, such as Zoom. I would not recommend social media, since not everyone subscribes. Knowing how to use these helps to avoid awkward distractions during whatever presentations various sessions think best to serve their congregations during this crisis. Basic instructions and more advanced instructions are readily available. More tutorial information is available at the Zoom Covid 19 page.

Also, pastors should be aware of the best ways to present their instruction in order to avoid distraction. Proper attire and visible backgrounds are very important for Lord’s Day presentations as well as other meetings of the church. Recently several helpful articles have been published in the Wall Street Journal which may be adapted to these presentations and meetings. These include tips for becoming the best video version of yourself and how to look your best on a video work call.

Along with missing the gathering of the saints on the Lord’s Day, we miss the fellowship after our meetings. The gallery view in Zoom and other meeting platforms can be very enjoyable as my wife and I discovered serendipitously this past Sunday evening as we connected with Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, New Hampshire.

The disembodied trajectory of our culture should be disturbing to Christians, as I believe it is to us generally in Reformed communions. As Martin Ledoux, of the church mentioned above, pointed out to me, as I lamented the temptation of this historical moment, this present unusual personal absence may make us hunger all the more for personal presence, and appreciate what we may have taken for granted.

The plague will surely pass. And then with renewed enthusiasm we will enjoy the reality of the conviction of the psalmist: “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 84:10).

A few final words of encouragement during these difficult times.

Job is not about why the righteous suffer but “represents absolute consecration of self to man’s faithful Creator-Savior as true wisdom. A man must continue to fear God even when his world flies apart and life strands him, like Job, in stunned bewilderment on the refuse heap.” Meredith G. Kline, commentary on Job in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (1962).

“Joyfully we leave the painful present and the unknown future with our Father, our Savior, our Comforter.” C. H. Spurgeon, Faith’s Checkbook April 14.

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