Wednesday, March 17, 2021

One Year of "Empty" Church Worship

The sanctuary echoed around us. 
Four people in a space designed to hold 800. 
Wednesday nights are usually flush with the voices of worshippers, 
but that night, we were a humble quartet in an empty church. 

One year ago tonight, we held our first "empty" church service.

March 18, 2020 - our first night of "Empty" Church Worship

Lockdown had been mandated across Ontario. That day, a flurry of emails flew amongst our Advent Cafe staff. We made plans to set up our sound system in the large main sanctuary, to take advantage of the live stream set up. All the details started to fall into place. We adjusted leadership roles, arrived early, and lifted extra prayers. Everything seemed ready...

But for the first time ever, 
we would close our doors to our beloved congregation. 

That first night, we felt so alone in that cavernous space. But then, we looked into the camera and welcomed those worshiping from the safety of their socially distant homes. We imagined their beautiful faces and loving smiles. We started praying and singing. The praise was rising! 

Suddenly, the church didn’t feel empty.

We’ve all read the passage about “the great cloud of witnesses”, and it can feel metaphorical. But in that moment, it became real for us. We felt surrounded by the generations of worshippers who had filled those pews. We were connected to people across the country who had tuned in to worship with us. 

God was in our praises! 
Two or three had gathered together, and God was in our midst.

We've now been gathering this way for a full year. 

It's been a varied year for worship settings. Some churches remain physically closed, live streaming from their sanctuaries. Others have managed to have small gatherings within their walls. Others have gone completely online, with preachers and musicians offering leadership from their own homes. 

We know it's going to be like this for a while yet...

But here's what else we know: 

God is still in our midst.
God is in your songs and in your prayers.
God is in the way you love your neighbour.
God is always around us.

Wherever you find yourself in this pandemic season, raise your voice in praise.
God is singing over you. Worshippers past and present join your song. 

When you worship, wherever you worship, you are never alone. 

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