Yes, it is weird to be back in church. Round my way numbers are building up again, but church is very different. In my, yes very traditional church building, the pews are gone and we are on plastic chairs spaced 1.5 metres apart. And I really miss the singing.
We had got into singing at home. Singing as a family round the big screen. Singing along to our church band on video, old and young together. I miss the family sing-alongs already.
Back in church the songs are the same ones we were singing in “iso” (bet that word disappears fast), but we can’t sing along with the band. As an intensely unmusical person I never thought I’d miss singing. I do.
It’s kind of like visiting a place you have been familiar with before, but you have not visited for a while.
But it is great to be back. Not just because I got back the week our minister preached on coming back. (I did not know that was happening, but it made me feel good that was the week I came back.)
Its good to know that other people are hearing God’s word. Un-singing the same songs. But hearing the same talk. There’s something special about hearing God’s word together. Getting the same challenge and encouragement. Supporting each other and savouring the same fellowship.
The building looks kind of different. It’s kind of like visiting a place you have been familiar with before, but you have not visited for a while. That holiday place down the coast. Or if you have more expensive tastes, that town in the Tuscany hills. Thing things have changed though, so it is old and new, familiar and unfamiliar all at once.
Some things, like those pews, have gone. There’s no collection. The service is shorter. We don’t chat to and many people afterwards. We keep 1.5m apart. There is no morning tea or coffee. And did I mention the music?
“Don’t you know, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…” the song goes. Well, we did know what we had before, but we might now just like it better for missing it all those months.
Dear Victorian friends, we know Church is not really back for you. And for those in really big churches, you are not back either.
Personally I have found the Christians around me to be both calm and generally cheerful about physical church disappearing for a while. While COVID brought big challenges and tragedy for some, Aussie churches took the “normal services will be resumed as soon a possible” attitude towards their gatherings. We had a “can do” attitude. Churches seized the moment. There’s been amazing innovation. New voices have emerged in some churches.
Sure there have been some petitions and approaches to government – but polite, and mostly respectful. No one seems to have poured more than a small amount of time into agitation. Instead, it seems we were about our Father’s business.
Our everyday Christianity changed for a while. We got God’s good word through our phones and computers for a while, and some still do. But it is the same word. The same big story with Jesus at its centre. The hidden business of church continued – the same answers to prayer. The same good news of salvation. Actually, the same everyday Christianity.