FRANCISCO-fact: Does gathering with a worshipping community matter for my spiritual life?
This is such a timely question, even as we have spent the past eighteen months encouraging Franciscans to be patient about receiving communion, singing together, and the efficacy of community online.
I believe that there have been many gifts in our online worship, daily offices, and social gatherings. Those benefits are so profound, we are functionally geared up to continue offering them. That means we will stream services both on Zoom and across our Facebook page, continue at 8 AM and 5 PM, respectively, to pray the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, via Zoom Meeting, and use online means to study the Bible and increase our faith.
We have also begun the regathering process with in-person Eucharist at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning. That experience has been enormously important. We may be masked currently but we sing, we share communion, and for those of us in a POD, we exchange the peace with hugs and handshakes. Let me take this time to invite you to that service and explain the importance of in-person gathering as we move forward, while continuing to offer ways for people who are constrained to join us via the internet.
The Bible gives us a history of the variety of worship in the Jewish context and in the church context as well. There are descriptions of the people of Israel gathering in the wilderness during their forty-year wanderings to the promised land, there are descriptions of communities gathering for the sacrifices to the Lord before there was a temple, and there are descriptions of the large temple gatherings as well. There is certainly a strain in Judaism of small family practices of Shabbat. But that too is a gathering, primarily of family focused on the presence of God in a meal.
For the church, it has been especially important to gather as a community to tell the story and share a sacred meal. These gatherings are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and even in the very near post-apostolic writings of Clement, Irenaeus, and others. Gathering in-person is part of being Christian, especially in our tradition, we’re sharing the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine blessed as a gathered community in the central act of our worship.
We know that the 9:00 AM service is not the best time for folks to be out and ready for worship on Sundays. We know that people are now traveling again. We know it is summer. But consider stopping in soon. Here are some things we are doing to return to normal.
- At the Vestry Meeting this Monday, July 12, we will be considering the health markers and the return of unmasked worship at the pre-COVID times of 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM.
- We are making plans to celebrate regathering in a big way on Sunday, September 12, with a normal sized choir, special musical offerings, a choral Eucharist, services at 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM, with Sunday School at 9:15 AM, and Coffee Hour with food as well as coffee.
It is time to mark your calendars and plan on attending church at St. Francis soon. Good habits are a wonderful boon to our psyche and spirits.
Good habits can draw us closer to God and each other. See you in Church!