While on home assignment in the states in 2020, I and millions of other believers experienced unprecedented disruptions to our usual Sunday worship.
Thailand had been much more effective in Covid repression, and so upon my arrival in November of 2020, I thought that I could resume attending a more normal Sunday service. However, I found that my Thai church had to close for a couple of months and was still meeting with social distancing, masks and even handing out communion with plastic gloves and individually wrapped wafers.
Hebrews 10:25 states, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some …”. What I observed was that many Thai had gotten used to “virtual church” and the flexibility and low keyness of being able to sit in your PJs and passively listen to a worship service. The author of Hebrews affirms how vital it is to physically gather for worship, sing together and absorb God’s Word. Personally, I don’t see how you can truly celebrate Communion online and we for sure can’t baptize over the internet. Also, no one has figured out a way to duplicate digitally the fellowship and wonderful Thai lunches we eat together each week after church. As helpful as technology has been during this pandemic, it has many inherent limitations. We see it clearly in our Sunday worship, but also academically. The faculty at the seminary I’m involved with feel that certain classes are just not suited for online learning (the results in public schools are confirming this).
Of course, one must be careful to protect the health of your parishioners, yet at the same time, God expects his people to gather regularly to praise God, edify one another and be equipped so that we can be sent out into the community to spread His good news.
My prayer is that as Covid lessens God’s people will see afresh the vital importance of physical/corporate worship.