I have been thinking about our faith story a lot lately. As we prepare to re-enter the building for corporate worship, I have been thinking about the exiles returning to Jerusalem. The worship center had to be rebuilt. The group that returned were excited about the possibility of worshipping God like “we did before.”
But there is a scene recorded in the Book of Ezra that tugs at my heart. After the new foundation for the second temple was put in place, the Priest’s in their vestments gathered with the people to praise God. But a strange noise rose up from the congregation. Ezra 3:12 and following recorded:
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping…Ezra 3:12-13
Why two radically different responses? I wonder if the difference was a matter of perspective? Perhaps, some of them where focused on what they had regained – back in shared worship together in the physical place that represents the spiritual center of their lives. Perhaps, those are the people who shouted for joy. Perhaps, some of them where focused on what they had lost – this house isn’t as grand as it was before! It’s not the same! Perhaps, those are the voices who weep out loud. That had to be a very strange worship service.
As we come back to shared worship inside the building, which perspective will you bring? Some things will be the same – but many things will not. Will we focus on what we have regained or something else? Your church leadership is striving to balance your spiritual needs to gather inside our worship centers with your physical needs of mitigating Covid 19 risks. As a result, some things will be the same, but some things will be different.
God will be still be present to be worshipped as two or more gather together in His name. The sweet Spirit of Christ will still move among the people of God who gather to glorify God through our shared sense of community and service in His name. Those things will be the same.
But there will be some things that are different. To meet our social distancing criteria, a lot less people can gather in our worship spaces. The chairs will be further apart. The “save your seat” process will insure you have a seat on the Sunday you attend. The services will be shorter. And while we will be wearing masks, we will not be doing congregational singing. Why? We now understand Covid droplets are not the only way it spreads in the air. The act of singing increases aerosols (micro droplets) that can stay suspended in the air for some time. Voices on the platform will be 20 feet from the congregation. That criteria will reduce the worship space seating in the CWC significantly.
Some things will be the same – some things will be different. My prayer for when we come back into the building is our God sees a people who understand the focus is on God (not on us) and who place their love and care for their brothers and sisters in Christ by adhering to all our safety guidelines. Let our love of God and each other shine bright as we re-enter the worship spaces so that the only noise we make is the shout of joy that comes from glorifying God together.