These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise amid the festive throng.
(Psalm 42:4, NIV)
This Sunday will be the fourteenth in which we’ve been unable to meet as a church for our main services, or even our smaller groups. We’ve been making do with services on YouTube and Facebook, and group meetings on Zoom. There have been positives: small groups pulling together, and friends joining us who may not have easy access to, or experience of, Bible teaching. For this we thank God - and everyone involved!
But we should not be comfortable with these new arrangements. They are a temporary fix, not the ideal. The Psalm I’ve quoted above shows a godly man reacting to much pressure and sorrow. Not being with the assembly of God’s people - for whatever reason in the Psalmist’s situation - was a matter for him of lament.
And so it should be for us. Not because we are missing our building - fine though it is - but because we’re missing each other. The English word church in our New Testaments translates the Greek word ekklesia, which means a crowd or assembly. Meeting up is assumed in the very definition of the word.
We are missing the joy of seeing each other. Certainly I’m missing that! At the moment I have to stare at a lens and try to picture you behind it. We should all be missing the chances to catch up with each other in informal conversations and we should all be missing the chance to speak a word of encouragement - which is what we should do as we gather (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are missing the joy of singing together. We are to sing to God AND to each other (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). This, of course, is why we have the chairs in our building facing each other.
We are missing the wonderful sight of people beyond our families or housemates meeting together in the name of the Lord Jesus. It’s a joy being a tiny outpost, at StAG, of the great multitude that no-one could number, from every nation, tribe, people and language that we read of in Revelation 7:9. That is something which points both our children and our visitors to our wonderful Saviour, who is building His kingdom.
We are missing the sight of people being baptised - always such a boost. And we are missing having the Lord’s Supper together, remembering as a whole church family our dependence on the Lord’s death.
We are missing easy ways of welcoming newcomers. It is hard to join a church during a lock-down! It is our normal expectation, and happy experience, that new people join us every year; we also have the joy of hearing of people coming to trust Christ. We are trying to make it easier to join us online.
So will you keep praying that we can soon meet again? And in the meantime, come for our new whole church ‘afterchurchcoffee.com’ on Zoom this Sunday, and sing some songs at home, and keep in touch with your small group, maybe ringing up friends to see how they are, and looking forward to the great day when we can start to meet again.