Yes, it counts. The age of digital community may be receiving a supercharge in this time of responding to COVID-19, but such ways of gathering have been in the works. I know of a young pastor in the United Methodist Church who has been in charge of a digital church community for the past two years. Although the first couple of years felt like marginal ministry to her colleagues, they are now seeing her skills and knowledge as important to the whole community.
Jesus proclaimed: “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am among them” [Matthew 18.20]. As far as I can tell, he did not describe how the two or three are to be gathered. During the past three weeks, St. Francis has been busy trying to keep us all connected in new ways. There are Zoom Meetings for Sunday Morning Church, weekday morning and evening prayer services, weekday office hours from 1:30 to 2:30 PM, the Monday Rector’s Bible Study, and the Thursday afternoon Bible study. More and more church members have expressed thanks for this way of being Church for now.
The church is also adding a new way of connecting—there is a new blog page associated with the church’s web page: https://stfrancisgreatfalls.org/. Follow this link to blog posts like the weekly Episco-/Francisco-Fact, a copy of Tracey Kelly’s reflections on the Samaritan woman at the well, and weekly schedules of events, times, and links.
There are limits to the satisfaction and intimacy of connecting digitally. But connecting at all in this time of social fasting is a gift. It leaves a longing, but that longing will be filled when we can gather again to share the Eucharist and pass a joyful peace to one another in person.
In the interim, stay safe, stay well, and stay digitally connected.