I am a fan of cooking shows on television. They’re, for the most part, the only “reality TV” I enjoy. I learn tips and tricks, sure, but mostly I enjoy watching the cooks solve problems creatively to delight those they feed.
One of my favorites: somebody gets artichoke as the featured ingredient and not
only do they produce deep-fried artichoke fritters, but also an artichoke soufflé. They call it “Artichoke Two Ways.”
I’m thinking of Church Two Ways these days. Like many of the cooking shows, we’re presented with a set of ingredients – only some of which we could expect – and our kitchen keeps roping off sections and making complicated rules about hairnets/beard-nets/safety goggles!
Much of this is demonstrated immediately by thinking of Worship Two Ways. There is in-person, the kind we’ve had all along and the kind that we hunger for at least as deeply as a chocolate chip cookie (you know, the perfect one). And there is online, the kind that is newer to us, feels a little experimental, the one we need new techniques (and technologies) to accomplish. Mostly, it tastes new – and simultaneously – familiar. It’s intriguing.
In-person worship is not going away. Human beings, in person, breathing the same air, shaking each other’s hands, singing in harmony, seeing one another’s tears, laughing together, sharing hugs… This is the way we recognize worship as the communal spiritual practice of a congregation. It’s how we started out together. Jesus did it this way. So did our grandparents. We are doing it now – with constant restriction, yes, but doing it all the same.
Online worship is new. Worship at a distance is not. Community at a distance is not. Jesus told his followers: I’ll be with you, when I’m gone. How?! Not by internet, of course. Still, Jesus promised PRESENCE without physical proximity. He said that when we gather, wherever and however we gather he’s there – and that’s not as a separate body – or as a ZOOM window in the room or on a screen. So, worship at a distance is, in its way, ancient practice, too. And we do gather when we simultaneously look through our computer and phone screens to hear and/or see one another.
Online worship requires tools. Devices. Information. It is not always available, or available in equal or even comparable efficiency. And all of that has an impact that is not to be denied. Going back to the cooking show: You simply can’t make hollandaise sauce without a stove. (I’m ready for one of you to tell me how it can, in fact, be done.) So online worship has limitations.
But you know what? So does in-person worship. Transportation. Distance. Mobility. The time it requires to move from one location to another and back again. Oh, the obstacles of preparing a group of people (perhaps a family) to be ready to go and be happy about it, all at the same time! What a treat to enter Sunday morning calmly, without the need to rush and move. How lovely to bring the central worship of your church community right into your own home.
So we enter a new church year doing church two-ways.
Our gatherings, our meetings, even our Fall Arts & Food Fest (the present iteration of the Art Fair & Bazaar) have elements of Two Ways, or Both/And, as you’ve heard it called. Our community welcomes those who come in person to the fullest extent our safety precautions allow. Our community welcomes those whose presence is virtual, online to the fullest extent our technologies allow. And we are learning and growing week-by-week in our abilities.
Our tradition is to celebrate a Rally Sunday. This year we’ll experience a Rally September! The word “rally” is defined first as a military term: to come together again in order to continue fighting after a defeat or dispersion, and second as: to recover or cause to recover in health, spirits, or poise. To reassemble, regroup, reunite, get together again. I offer a third, perhaps more colloquial definition: To rally is to refuse to be disheartened and to hang in there – not so much to fight, but to continue upward, onward, inward and outward. In church, we do that as a community.
Each Sunday we will take the time to hear from one another, somehow, someway. On the first Sunday we will share Good News! We will compose and share headlines of our own making about the thrills of our lives. Here’s a couple to get you thinking: Baby Bird Successfully Makes First Flight; Seventh-Grader Completes Model Of Galaxy.
We’ll begin on September 5, with Communion that focuses on the joyful feeding of five-thousand on a hillside, rather than the solemn gathering of a beleaguered thirteen inside a locked room. Please bring yourself to the feast, the feast two-ways. From the sanctuary in the church building, from the sanctuary of your home, we gather, we rally to “Taste and see that God is good.” And the community is delicious. Both ways.
Wild blessings, Pastor Chris