I have been gathering via Zoom with clergy collogues on Tuesday morning over the last year and we have been discussing a variety of topics related to self-care, congregational care, worship, pandemic protocols and most recently returning to worship. At our last gathering, we looked at an article by Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, California. In February, Rev. Reyes-Chow spoke at a national gathering of Christian Educators about MOVING FORWARD, and he began with questions: “When the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and congregations can be together again in person without restrictions, what will be different? What should change going forward? Are there, for example, new ways of thinking about expanding the table to be more inclusive — so church isn’t just seen as whoever shows up to sit in the pews on Sunday morning? What about the idea of a sanctuary or community space that’s moveable and flexible, not tied to one place — that includes folks at home on the couch, or
traveling or in assisted living, or off at college or living in another state, or sleeping in and watching later on the deck?”
These are questions that each Session and each congregation will have to wrestle with as we begin to shift towards a new way of being the body of Christ. Rev. Bruce Reyes-Cow spoke of a range of options for congregations:
- In-person worship only, which was typical for many;
- Two services every week: one virtual, one in person;
- Streaming worship from the sanctuary; or
- “Hybrid church,” where the leadership is not all in the building and in which participants have essentially the same experience whether they’re present physically or watching from somewhere else.
“There’s no one right decision!” Reyes-Chow said. A lot will depend on what a particular congregation and its leaders want; the church’s resources and capacity for taking on something new; and what people there consider to be most faithful. Bruce acknowledged that in many congregations, the desire to return to in-person worship – with coffee-hour, hugs for friends and congregational singing – is strong.
Our Session will be wrestling with these questions, but my sense is that worship at the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury will include both in-person and on-line options for folks. I believe that we will also have to prayerfully consider how we are a community with this new reality. Even with all the changes in worship, there is one cornerstone, that is Jesus Christ is Lord, and we are still called to proclaim that GOOD NEWS into a world that desperately needs the kingdom of God!!!
Rev. Dr. Philip W. Oehler, S