Church Post COVID - Part Two - Stepping through God’s open door
In this post, following on from Part 1, I want to speak about the creative theological mindset that switches us from an enclosed system of thinking, that limits worship within a liturgical word based format, to one that is open in understanding the internet as a parable; helping us reflect upon the meaning and significance of a worshipping community that exists within time and space but is also beyond a spacial location.
In other words, to grasp the enormity of worship as an act of adoration that spans time into eternity — of becoming people mesmerised by the glory of God. James from the team writing in the Sanctuary First Daily Worship in November 2020 said, “We live at the intersection of the divine and the ordinary.” It is when we recognise the significance of such an intersection that we begin to think on a different plane.
Take the new insights that online Communion can offer us. Online Communion can be both narrowcast to a few people interactively, or broadcast simultaneously to a wider group of people with less interaction. It is the limitation of the medium that continually frustrates us from completely embracing that which is signified. Bring two media together and an integrated reality is revealed.
Bread and wine, can signify a material physical presence, yet the internet signifies another kind of physical/virtual presence brought about by technological wizardry. It helps to demonstrate what we mean theologically by the otherness of the presence of God beyond our physical space.
The metaphorical application of the internet and the physical presence of bread and wine brought together, manifest a new dimension of sacred space, especially when seeking to understand the omnipresent nature of God! It is a rich seam to mine. And I think the sacrament of Holy Communion celebrated online invites us to consider anew in our worship the mystery of the one and the many in the body of Christ. The internet is not just another way of doing business as usual — it can add to and enhance our understanding of worship and community.
The internet has become a tool that the Holy Spirit is using to connect with thousands of people who no longer feel comfortable being part of the inherited methodology of church attendance, by that I mean the programming and organisational structuring of traditional church. I believe God is working through this technology engaging with new people who he is opening up to himself. This engagement goes far beyond what we might understand as acceptable traditional worship formats. Could worship be being explored by those who are on a worship journey they don’t even know they have taken?
Through art, poetry and music, science, maths, philosophy, politics, ecology and many more disciplines, the Holy Spirit is helping to deepen the spiritual lives of the many who have voluntarily left the inherited models of church but who still are in pursuit of justice, mercy, compassion and love. God has always been at work in his world. The risen Christ speaking to the church at Philadelphia says, “Behold I set before you an open door which no one can close.” The internet is surely a modern day open door to which the Spirit is drawing the attention of the church. It is a place where we will meet very different people. Remember Jesus speaks in John’s gospel of “the other sheep who are not of this fold.”
Congregations who take seriously the importance of hybrid structures and missions which engage technology will find themselves exploring a new understanding of what it means to be fully connected with a growing body of people outwith their in-person services — people who are in search of a new reality. Many of whom are unaware that it is Christ for whom they are searching.
The internet will help us re-connect with ways of being church that go beyond the local taking us into a conversation with the early church fathers exploring the significance of what it means to be part of the church triumphant — the church universal.
The discovery of technology integrating with theology to enhance our spiritual understanding of presence needs to be celebrated, rather than dismissed. It is an exciting prospect to continue to reflect upon the ways which God reveals more of his being to humanity in Christ. Surely the reason why we still live and move and have our being in him, is that he has more to reveal to us about who we are in him. The internet has for many rekindled the understanding that the church is not local or global but the Church is universal, catholic and apostolic. The Communion of the Saints — throughout time and what has still to be and into eternity — seeks to reclaim an identity that has been lost by some believers. The Church has much to contribute to science and technology but it also has a commission to go into the world and peach the Gospel of peace. Indeed more than preach — to seek to bring about the end to war and thus fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah ‘To beat swords into ploughshares’.
In Ephesians 3:10 the Apostle Paul writes that God chooses to use the Church to explain to the whole of heaven and earth the mystery of his redemptive plan. So we are a people who have already crossed the dividing line of time reaching out touching eternity. I will speak more about eternity in my next post… (Read Part 3).
Very Rev Albert Bogle