Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. – 1 John 3:2 (NRSV)
As our churches return to in-person worship, I hear a common complaint about “all the missing people who have gotten used to watching church in their pajamas” and inevitably someone suggests, “Maybe we should stop streaming our worship to make them come back.”
Thank you for sharing, but that is the worst idea ever. The world has changed. Shutting down online worship is now the equivalent of locking your door on a Sunday morning. Multiple points of entry, in person or online, won’t kill the church and may save it. Streaming is how we show hospitality to the stranger sticking a virtual toe in the water, to the old friends who are out of the habit of showing up and to each other, when we’re having one of those pajama days, when we’re too sick or too tired or too devastated to put one foot in front of the other. In the old days, we just stayed isolated. Now we have an option.
If you are considering shutting off your online love, ask yourself why.
If you are an early riser and early adopter of coming back to church in person, just be you. Celebrate the people you see in person, rather than using that precious time to point out who is not there. Give thanks to God for the online participants we never had before Covid and for the longtime friends who stay in touch virtually.
Consider how important your words and spirit are in worship. If your online worshipers hear announcements begging or shaming them for missing church, you have just negated the hospitality of sharing your worship service online in the first place.
Embrace each personal connection as the gift it is, and then turn your attention to Jesus, who shows up no matter the numbers, no matter the format, wherever you are on life’s journey.
Thank you, God, for the mighty cloud of witnesses who gather whenever and wherever we pray. Amen.