Is virtual worship really worship? It is a question that has been posed by many over the last several months. It’s a natural question for those who have gotten up, put on their best attire, and driven to church on Sunday mornings their entire lives. Parishioners and pastors alike have wondered. After all, we call it a sanctuary or a worship center, a holy space, where the people of God gather to encounter their Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Can we get “credit” for sitting at home in front of a screen, wearing our pajamas, mug in hand, watching ourselves or our colleagues proclaim the Word of the Lord from a distance? Can we get “credit” for leading worship when our sermon was prerecorded and posted or live-streamed to a congregation most of whom we can not see? How do we fill out Tables I, II, and III for 2020?
The Israelites wrestled with “real” worship too. They knew the rituals by heart. They knew where to show up, when to stand, and when to sit. They knew when to fast and when to feast. Yet God was not pleased. God was not satisfied with their worship. It wasn’t about the place or the posture. It is not about the prerecorded, the posted, or the in-person offerings on Sunday. It is about what happens next, as a result of the worship, by whatever means the worship took place. God was and is most interested in our daily implementation of love and reconciliation. Rituals are not enough. Through the prophet Isaiah God calls us to be “repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to live in”. When our time with God and the people of God leads us to be instruments of God, real worship has taken place.
How is worship challenging us (and others) to repent of the breach that separates us from those who live, speak, and vote differently? How is worship equipping us (and others) to restore beloved
communities presently ravaged by poverty and prejudice?
Gracious God, from whom all blessings flow, empower us by Your Holy Spirit to be catalysts for true worship and reconciliation in North Carolina and beyond. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in us so that disciples of Jesus Christ may be made and the world transformed. Amen.
Rev. Beth Hood is the Director of Ministerial Relations and Assistant to the Bishop