If nothing else, the stay-in-place situation has given me the chance to do something I enjoy: visit other churches.
I can usually only do that when I'm traveling, or during the summer when I don't have other obligations at church.
It's all changed now.
I can worship at the church where I grew up in Denver.
I can worship with my church in Connecticut.
I can worship with my church in California.
I can worship with St. Stephen's.
I can worship with the Delaware-Maryland Synod.
I can worship with my friend's Baptist Church.
I can worship with the Episcopal church down the street, or at my friend's Episcopal church across town.
I can worship with the churches around Wilmington that support the food pantry.
The opportunities are endless.
Apparently, so are the options these on-line services have taken.
Some are 15 minutes services with a prayer, a reading, a brief homily, and a closing prayer.
Some are full-blown services, with all the music, all the liturgy, all the prayers, all the readings. Sometimes, even communion.
Some have the minister and one or two musicians in the same place at the same time. Others manage to link in with musicians off-site successfully. Some have no music at all.
Services happen in sanctuaries, chapels, offices, and gardens.
Some incorporate power-point slides to include the texts of the prayers and the music. Others have bulletins that can be downloaded from the church's website.
Some ministers seem uncomfortable sitting alone in front of a camera reading and preaching. Some ministers don't seem to care how many people they are preaching to, they are preaching, and nothing will stop that.
In short, on-line worship is just as varied as in-person worship. A little shorter (usually). A little less formal.
What I think I'm going to enjoy out of all of this is having access to many of these worship services into the future. Maybe I'm not ready for compline at 7:30 on Wednesday. Nothing stops me from doing it on Saturday. Perhaps I wasn't quite ready for Easter when it appeared on the calendar. I can enjoy Easter worship again anytime I want. I can't attend five services at the same time on Sunday morning. But I can spread them out during the week.
On-line worship may become the norm for some people. For people who are connected to a church, but unable to attend in person, on-line worship may be the way to keep them connected. Families from around the country can gather to worship together on-line at a common church. People who work weekends can participate in worship on Monday morning.
It's a valuable thing, and I'm glad to see so many churches and church bodies reaching out to make it happen. I hope we figure out how to connect with those who can use the service now and in the future.
As for me, I'm looking forward to being back to church in person. The camera is a fine alternative, but it's just not the same.
- Ann Iona Warner