Happy Sunday friends! It’s a different week in the life of the church. For those of you who are either not of the Christian faith tradition, or who don’t follow any faith tradition at all, I thought I would say what this week is and how it’s different worshiping from home than being at church (thanks Sarah!).
I’m going to preface this explanation by saying I am not ordained, I did not attend seminary, and I am still learning more and more about my holy religious traditions. This is based on my own experience as a woman who grew up Lutheran, who still believes and attends a Lutheran church, and who is married to a Methodist pastor. I am someone who also believes and attends a Methodist church as well. Another post about how all this happened, but that’s for another day.
This week is Holy Week. Let me back up for minute. The past 6 weeks (excluding Sundays) we have been celebrating the season of Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (which this year was on February 26th) and is the 40 days (roughly six weeks) excluding Sunday’s that leads us to Easter. Lent is traditionally a time to remember our sins and usually followers of Christ will “give something up” for Lent. Whether that’s a food group (sweets) or social media (like Facebook). On Ash Wednesday, when you attend an Ash Wednesday service, you are marked with a cross made of ashes (these ashes I have learned since being married to a pastor are the burnt palms from palm Sunday the previous year) and as the pastor places them in the shape of the cross on your forehead they say “remember from dust you were, and to dust you will return”. Quite a grim reminder of how precious life is. And looking back now, it feels right and fitting that this was one of the last in person worship services I attended before COVID-19.
So, Lent is a tough season for many reasons. It is long, longer than the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas, but there is so much sweetness in the resurrection. Now, before I get to ahead of myself, let me say that this week, beginning today, on April 5, 2020, is Palm Sunday. This begins the week of what we in the church call Holy Week. Holy week is the week between Lent ending and Easter Sunday, which will be next Sunday, April 12, 2020. *see this picture from my husband and I last Easter*
The last Sunday we worshiped in our church building was on Sunday March 8th, 2020. This was the last Sunday before our state governor had made social distancing and no social gatherings. So let’s talk about church for a minute as an occupation. I want to think about it in terms of the P-E-O model. This model stands for Person, Environment, Occupation model. As I’ve said in an earlier post, religious and spiritual practices is listed as an occupation in our Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, so this model is appropriate. I like this model a lot for my everyday practice as an OT because it’s easy to understand and it helps me really identify what specific things I should consider for the person, the environment, and their occupation which they are engaging in.
On a typical Sunday at church, the person is myself, and all our church members who attend worship. At our church, that includes mostly older adults. We love them dearly. They bring wisdom, light, and life to our lives. We have time to greet one another before, during, and even after the service.
The environment is our church building. Our church is a one story building with no steps, so easy for all of our members to get in and out. It’s a smaller church, but that makes it feel more life family and more like home.
The occupation is worship. For us, that includes a gathering songs, announcements, scripture readings, a children’s moment, a sermon from my husband, offering, prayer, and then closing songs.
Flash forward to now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I blogged about my feelings last week. Now here I am, talking about how church is impacted by this. Many churches in our area already have been or have the capability to live stream their worship services. Many of those churches still are (under the guidelines with less than 10 people in the building). I am grateful to be able to see more of our own clergy friends and worship with them through this online media (because we wouldn’t normally be able to worship with them on a Sunday morning because we are worshiping with our church family).
Our church does not have the capabilities to do live streaming from our church. We are a smaller church full of older adults, so our technology is a little behind. So my husband has had to get creative on how he delivers his sermons and worship experience. The first Sunday we worshipped from home, he just recorded his sermon and posted it on our church’s Facebook page. The next Sunday, we recorded a worship experience from our kitchen table on Saturday night live on Facebook and recorded it so that it could be published the next day on our churches Facebook page (*it took all the devices in our house to pull this one off!)
To say this is an adjustment is almost an understatement. My husband is learning and navigating how to worship to our older members via online-worship and Zoom meetings. They have met us with grace, love, and a willingness to learn and grow with us. I am so thankful for a group of people who are willing to grow and learn on this huge learning curve that is online worship.
So where does that leave us on Sunday mornings? Well now, instead of driving to our church building, I just walk to my kitchen. Many others still go to church to record. Others who are worshiping from home sit on the couch in comfy clothes with their pets near by. It’s a weird feeling. I miss my church people. I miss our greeting times and our singing all together. I miss watching my husband preach from the stage instead of just at our kitchen table.
But this morning, when I was doing my Palm Sunday reading, I was struck in awe and reminded that this feels a lot like the early church. The disciples who followed Jesus, they followed him to the city. They got him a colt (a young donkey) because Jesus asked them too. And Jesus road in through the streets, people laid down their clocks and waved palm branches, or perhaps even their hands if they didn’t have palm branches. They wanted to see Jesus. They thought Jesus was the kind of king that could save them with weapons and harsh words. Instead, Jesus saved them, and all of us, with his kindness and the upside-down way he viewed the world. Always looking out for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the marginalized.
Today I was reminded, that like the early Christians, we are not worshiping in buildings. And, like them, we don’t really know what is coming next. As Christians, we know this week ends in darkness, death, and despair, but we also know there is light in Easter morning. What we don’t know, is how COVID-19 will play out. We don’t know when we’ll get back to church. But we do know that Jesus love us, Jesus has seen death, destruction, and pain, and Jesus will be with us through this.
Whether you believe anything, some, or none of what I said, that’s okay with me. I am here to share my story and how I see God moving in the world through my place and role as a pastor’s spouse and an occupational therapist. I want you to know that you are loved. You are cared for. You are important. Whatever role you may be playing right now, an essential worker, a parent leaning how to home school, someone adjusting to working from home, or just doing your part to stay home to help flatten the curve; I see you. I appreciate you. I love you.
May you use this week to see the good things coming. The signs of sping in buds on a tree, a nice walk outside in the sunshine, the smile of a loved ones face, the gratitude for your job or extra time at home.
May you be well. May you stay safe. Wash your hands.
Love and peace from this occupational therapist to you and yours.