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June 2020 New Horizons

What We Learn about Worship from Not Having It

 

Contents

What We Learn about Worship from Not Having It

The Physicality of the Church

Faith and Risk

Tornadoes and Watermelons

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What We Learn about Worship from Not Having It

Elizabeth Pearce was one of three people driving to worship at Church of the Covenant OPC in Hackettstown, New Jersey, in late March when the country was, state by state, shutting down.  She is the church pianist; the pastor and the sound guy were the other two members of the skeleton crew. “I cried on the way there because I was experiencing for the first time just how precious worship is,” Pearce remembered. They set up the livestream, and the simple service commenced. “It was so surreal to be putting together the bare bones of a worship service. … I am never going to take worship for granted again—how sweet and necessary it is to be together.” As OP churches trickle back into corporate worship and restrictions are slowly lifted, members may similarly find that their understanding of church life has changed or expanded. What do we lose from not being gathered together? What do we learn about worship from not having it? A Hunger for Fellowship Scott Pearce, brother-in-law to ... Read more

The Physicality of the Church

The congregation I serve in Newberg, Oregon, loves to gather for worship. Yet, for the past month, as I write, we have not, both because corporate worship would put others in danger of contracting COVID-19 and because of restrictions on any gatherings. Since we cannot meet physically, we, like many churches, have moved to livestreaming. We cannot not worship. We will not stop worshiping. But we have changed how we gather for worship. That has been a learning curve for me. Arrangements are jury-rigged. The camera stand is a folding chair set on a table. The borrowed laptop is connected to an ethernet cable unrolled across the lawn. It’s makeshift, but it works. Following the livestreamed service, we open a Zoom session for informal fellowship. As I worked to arrange the livestreaming of services to be held in a building empty except for my wife, the pianist, I was struck again by the physicality of the church. We are believers who actually meet together. We greet one another. We raise our voices ... Read more

Faith and Risk

An ancient Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times.” It sounds like a blessing. But its intent is not to bless. It is used ironically—a sour curse that reminds us of the fall. Well, we are living in interesting times. They are not particularly amusing in real life. But they remind us of the important relationship between faith and risk. Christians are called to walk in faith, in every circumstance, and Christians are also called to walk in wisdom in evaluating risk. Faith and wisdom are not opposite ends of a spectrum but are coinhabitants of that faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. It turns out that interesting times are an opportunity for witness in a way that we might never have conceived—the simple witness of going to work. We have two members of our congregation who work in grocery stores. Both have gone from part-time employees, struggling to find enough hours to provide for themselves, to full-time employees, often working overtime. Their labor is in high ... Read more

Tornadoes and Watermelons

Twenty-two Aprils ago, a tornado roared through my neighborhood. I kind of expected it. I’d had long conversations with the Lord and told him how grateful I was that he had strengthened my faith—that it was so strong, the only thing that might test it would be a tornado coming through. (That was one of those draw-a-line-in-the-sand things, and I don’t recommend doing that. Ever.) So, this one day the air was so, so still. The birds were not singing, the wind was not stirring. The sky was blank, as if waiting for something to fill it. My daughter’s boyfriend had brought her home early from a date, and, as he left, he commented that it felt like tornado weather. I had made a trip to Home Depot and bought some pine straw bales for mulch, a tray of impatiens flowers, and several tomato plants. Now I carried the plants to a sheltered corner of my front porch. At two dollars a bale, the pine straw was on its own, but those plants, well, they were special. As I moved them, I said aloud, “Now, God, ... Read more

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