By Pastor Gary Peterson
During this past year we have had periods of time when we have not been able to attend church worship in person because of Covid-19. Yet, there are compelling reasons why church attendance is necessary to keep the Christian life alive and to fulfill the duties of the Christian life. We have some familiar reasons for attending church. There are certain things in life which gain a great part of their value and their impact from being experienced together, and attending worship is one of the necessities we have as followers of Jesus Christ. Yes, we can worship alone and, of course, there are times when we must worship alone. But the fact remains that being together is an essential part of our worship experience.
There is real value in being sure that the Christian faith is not only a personal experience, but the possession of a whole community. We need the church in our worship experience and the church needs us in worship.
I read just recently, a very good explanation as to why we need to go to church. The writer put it this way, “Over the years of growing up my mother prepared thousands of meals for me. The food that she provided at each meal helped me grow strong and healthy. If I were to miss a meal or two that did not have a significant effect on my growth and health, but if I were to have missed a large number of meals in a row, I would become weak and could, if extended for a long period of time, lose my strength and die. I cannot tell you what all the meals contained but I knew that they were good for me. Going to church and attending worship is much like eating meals. When we attend worship, and are fed on an ongoing basis, we become strong in our faith. If we were to miss an occasional worship, we would still remain strong as a follower of Jesus Christ because we were continually being fed spiritually as we honored God in worship when we gathered with other sisters and brothers in Christ. We may not remember all the messages in part, but as a whole, they feed us. Because we are committed to worshiping together and giving praise to God Almighty, our healthy souls can carry us during the difficult times in life. Just like when we eat a meal on a regular basis, we have the strength to meet the physical challenges in life. When we are fed spiritually we can meet all the spiritual challenges life holds.”
There is real value in being assured that the Christian faith is not only a personal experience, but the gathering and expression of the whole faith community will sustain us to meet the challenges of life. We need the communal worship experiences, and the church needs us to participate in worship together.
There is much being written about what is happening in many churches today because of Covid-19 and members of churches not attending worship service on a regular basis. It is sometimes easy, on Sunday mornings when the church family is not able to meet in person, and in the sanctuary of the church, to “Just let the Sunday morning go by.” Yet, I truly believe over time, we as followers of Jesus Christ will recognize the need to be fed from the nourishment that is gained in corporate worship and we, as followers of Jesus Christ, will continue to return to worship together on Sunday mornings, as we are safely able to do so.
For some there is a need to continue to worship online or by video broadcast. One religious writer that I read frequently put it this way, “There are those who because of health and physical necessities need to worship online and it is very important to them. That is why as a church community we must continue to provide such opportunities, yet we all recognize that online worship does not always get you outside of yourself; that happens when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your life and you continue to grow spiritually. This happens when we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding not just for ourselves but all those who gather together”.
Our prayer is that we will continue to feed all of God’s children in ways that they can continue to grow.