Almost everything that could have gone wrong went wrong last Sunday.
The Worst Sunday
We hadn’t met in person in 133 days. It was our first Sunday back in person, with most of our people joining us over Zoom. We faced three complications. First: we were meeting in a new location. Second: for the first time in four years, we had to pull up in a vehicle and set up all of our gear. Third, and most significantly, we were doing a hybrid service — not a completely in-person service, not an online call, but a combination of the two.
I left early to dig the gear out of our church’s locker. I underestimated how long it would take to set everything up. Sometimes you catch a break, but not this week. Almost all of our technology refused to cooperate.
On top of that, it’s the first time we experienced the weirdness of our new reality: sitting apart, not touching, not singing, not breaking bread, with me preaching behind a plexiglass screen. In the seven years our church has been around, and the almost thirty years I’ve been around, I don’t think I’ve led a glitchier service.
I don’t want to repeat it anytime soon if I can help it.
The Best Sunday
And yet it was the best Sunday in weeks.
Unlike any of the past 18 Sundays, I was gathering, in person, with God’s people. I long for the day when we’re all together, but I never want to go 18 weeks apart again.
We read Scripture. The Word was preached. We prayed. We professed what we believe. We confessed our sins. We heard the Scriptural promise of forgiveness. We said, with hope, “See you again next Sunday.”
Don’t get me wrong. Glitchy technology drives me crazy. We’re doing to do our best to solve the technological issues before next week. But the glitchiest service I can remember was no match for what took place as God’s people gathered together again.
That same day, Jared Wilson tweeted:
Glitchy but glorious, and closer to heaven than we realize.
I’m weary of all the controversies about masks and civil disobedience. I’m not about to pronounce what other churches should do. All I know is that, all things considered, not meeting together is abnormal, and the sooner we can see our way back (with all the wisdom and prudence we can muster), the better. And if that means a glitchy Sunday or two, it’s worth it.
Karl Vaters writes, “Reconvening for worship will not be like flipping a switch. It will be more like going to physical therapy after our muscles have atrophied … Even the strongest churches must be allowed time to recover before any of this feels normal.” In other words, expect a few glitches. Expect it to be hard at first.
We felt some of that on Sunday. This Sunday, I hope we’ll do better. But it’s worth it, and I’m willing to experience some discomfort as we learn how to gather again.