This past week, we returned to Sunday worship in church at Holy Trinity, and as I reflected on the experience in the days following, I found a curious mix of emotions.
Yes, there was joy – the joy of returning to the church building for worship and of being physically present with other worshippers – with brothers and sisters in Christ. There was the delight of hearing the congregational responses, spoken by everyone, and delivered with some gusto. And there was the privilege of being able to administer the sacrament, to be able to share in communion physically, rather than across the ether.
But there was also discomfort and unease – at people having to sit at a distance from each other, at the constant hand washing, at the lack of singing, the lack of physical contact, and at the wearing of facemasks. I don’t enjoy wearing a mask, and it is an odd and uncomfortable experience looking out at a congregation with masks on!
I understand the need for these precautions and guidelines (and the masks), and that we need to both be doing, and be seen to be doing, the ‘right thing’ as we try to protect each other, and the most vulnerable amongst us……..and I am hugely proud of the congregation who have responded magnificently in doing what is required with a smile and good cheer….but I am still looking forward to casting of the masks, and singing, and sharing the peace, and enjoying a coffee after the service!
And throw in to this mix of emotions a sense of sadness and loss at the ending of the Sunday morning online services we’ve taken part in over the past six months.
This may sound surprising, this sense of bereavment and loss – and don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t have chosen to switch wholesale to online worship as we had to do back in March. But there have been many surprising joys in our coming together online.
There has been the opportunity for people from St Pauls and Holy Trinity to worship together regularly, and for people from other churches in Dunoon and beyond to join in with the worship. And there has been the opportunity to welcome back to worship people who have been unable to physically get to church for health reasons.
We have welcomed new people and made new friends, and on a personal note, it has been a great joy to be joined by my daughter from London, and my Mum and Dad from Yorkshire – which just couldn’t happen at services in church.
I am grateful for the opportunities online worship has provided, and the positive and gracious response to shifting to online worship by members of the congregation. The Zoom services will continue during the week and on a Sunday afternoon, but the return to church changes the dynamic of the online Sunday offering, and it remains to be seen how best we might use these online services in the future.