“Not Giving Up Meeting Together” (during a Pandemic)

We made it through another Ground hog day!—Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and that means six more weeks of winter. I’m not sure how scientific this revelation is but it is good to see this tradition continue. 

Most of us are familiar with the classic Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” in which he wakes up at 6:00 am to repeat Groundhog Day (day after day). He experiences are the same things day after day and after a while he learns to adapt and anticipate what is going to happen. Murray’s character changes from a selfish broadcaster to someone who comes to care about the people of Punxsutawney.

It feels like this holiday which honors the rodent has come to us in the form of COVID–many of us are trying to handle the same things day after day after day. It’s a challenge to say the least and it’s having a great impact upon the church.

The first century church dealt with a lot of difficulties and needed to be reminded of its presence and purpose as the people of God. There were some members of the family of faith who had “given up” gathering for worship and fellowship. The writer of Hebrews offered an encouragement and a warning to those 1st century believers: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10.24-25).

How do you not give up meeting together during a pandemic? It isn’t a new problem but the circumstances are cause to revisit the need for connection as Christians.

I get asked a lot about what the church is going to look like “when we get a vaccine.” Will our people come back? Will everyone come back? My honest answer is “I don’t know.” But, I suspect that there will be attrition rate as a result of persons getting out of the habit of worship attendance each week. This is a sad but most likely an anticipated result. Regardless, the church on the other side of COVID will be different from the one before COVID. It will be important to discern how to adapt to remain effective in our witness. 

The early church went through numerous challenges and often faced death threats as they continued meeting together. Acts 8 offers a record of Christians being scattered as a result of persecution. They couldn’t meet in large groups but instead founded smaller gatherings. The Apostle Paul used the technology of his day, the writing and sending of letters–to communicate and minister to them. 

In a similar way, that is what our church has been doing. Some of our folks are meeting in their person while others are gathering in their homes around laptops, I-phones and other screens for Sunday worship. However, my concern is that there are many of us who are doing neither and have simply “given up” meeting at all.

For those 1st century Hebrews, some of them had given up meeting together, but not all of them. This tells me that their right to gathering publicly was not taken from them. They were not forced to stop meeting–some of them simply decided that meeting as a church family wasn’t important.

Like you, I’m excited and look forward to receiving a vaccination for the virus when it comes available. Until that time, we are going to pay attention to developments relating to the pandemic and do our best to make wise decisions about being together. Let’s do all we can to take advantage of opportunities we have to stay connected as a church family, using all the technology that we have at our discretion. Take a few moments to call, text, email, or use social media to reach out to those whom you haven’t seen for a while. Let’s stay faithful and “not give up meeting together” by using the means and methods we have available to us–DC

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