It’s hard to get my head around the fact that I haven’t worshipped with all of you in person since February 9, 2020. David Anderson had just retired the previous Sunday, Kyna had only been with us for about a month. And I had just decided in early December to head to Malawi to visit my good friend, Masankho Banda.
We were flying home on February 29 and all the airport news, the world’s eyes were on Washington, as the news broke that the new virus—the one that was supposed to “just be like a bad flu” —had claimed its first victim in the US. A noticeably greater number of folks on our planes and in the airport were wearing masks than when we were flying out on February 13.
I made some regrettable snarky remark on Facebook about masks and overreactions… at first I walked it back because I became aware that I had not “read the room” well and realized I’d stepped in a place of deep anxiety for many. I would have no idea, of course, that a year later I’d own a collection of masks for myself and Benjamin; that I would always know where one is or have one on, that I’d feel self-conscious without one when in public.
I took the first days of March off to recover from jetlag and made it into our Wednesday worship meeting. I think we spent more time discussing how we could pass the offering plates than the scripture I was to preach on. That was the last workday at church in 2020. Within 48 hours our congregants with medical and scientific expertise were calling us and strongly recommending we not hold worship in-person that Sunday…which left me about 48 hours to plan and implement our first (and last) online worship from the Sanctuary. If you recall, it was a bit of a fiasco… we forgot about the time delay so while *we* started at 10 am, you were all waiting and wondering what was happening and the sound was awful. Going “live” was frankly pretty terrifying.
I was so grateful for how quickly everyone gathered to put that first service together. For the willingness of everyone to just dive in and do their best. It was the last hug I’d get from Heidi and I’m glad we risked it at the time.
I had only the slightest idea of what I was doing as I’d been avoiding “Facebook Live” for some time. So I called the only videographer I knew and asked if he’d be willing to come help us out. Thank goodness for a congregation with a virologist, an epidemiologist, a professor of nursing, and a videographer… who knew that particular combination would ever be so handy?
After the second Sunday morning live fiasco at Catherine’s farm… more sound issues, internet issues, power issues… Trent and I looked at each other and said, “You know, if we just gave up on doing this live we could actually put together something pretty good.”
Heidi had her doubts. What could this even look like? Trent, as always, was up for anything I could think of. I quickly assigned Catherine and Todd to get comfortable recording themselves and uploading files… good thing I’d always wanted to be a director/producer!
But week after week, what I am left with after a year of doing this… is that you all keep showing up. The choir is still gathering, We had over 150 participant-contributors to the Christmas Eve services. There is an average of 50-100 files involved in each weekly service now. With an average weekly view count of 804. And that’s you. All of you. Showing up. And sharing in God’s love. What a gift it is to be in this with all of you. To be church with you.