After ten weeks of meeting online for services, we’ve opened our doors for in-person services again. June 28 is “The Fifth Sunday of Reopening.” It’s been refreshing for me to see faces of Trinity again. Of course, many are still watching at home via the live stream, and that’s good. Our intention in reopening is not to pack every pew. There are good reasons to come back, and there are good reasons to stay home and worship in your living room. The balance of those reasons is different for each person. If you are concerned for health reasons (either your own health or someone else’s) that’s a good reason to stay home.
All the way back in March, when churches were first starting to suspend services, I heard several pastors asking, “Okay, what do we do when this is over? How do we get people to come back? How to we convince them that sitting in a pew is better than sitting on the couch in their pajamas drinking coffee? What if they decide they prefer staying home?”
Many church members won’t have this problem. They miss the fellowship of the congregation, they know they need it, and they will come back when the time is right. Part of the answer, then, is simply telling the rest of the congregation that fellowship is necessary. You can’t be a Christian without a congregation. I don’t mean that congregational membership is a prerequisite for salvation. Not at all. But when the Holy Spirit joined us to Christ, he also joined us with one another, and we need this fellowship. Christians need other Christians. The one who tries to be a solo Christian is in danger of losing the faith. I also need to remind you what the livestream is for and what it’s not for. It is primarily intended to bring the service to those who are home for health reasons. Secondarily, it can be beneficial to those who are traveling or at a second home, though it would actually be better to find a faithful Lutheran church to attend in person, and then watch the video from Trinity later. But the livestream is not for the convenience of pajamas. If that’s the only reason you’re staying home, it’s time to put on some real clothes and come to church.
But there is still something good about watching church in your living room, maybe even in your pajamas. Some of you have expressed how nice it is to have that family time together. Or if you live alone, it can be nice listen to the Word of God from your favorite chair. It is good to bring the Word of God into your home. You can keep that, even when you come back to church.
Here are a few ways you can do that: (1) Read the Bible. If you live with your family, do it together. After dinner or before bed are probably the easiest times to do it. (2) Pray the Lord’s Prayer together. (3) Memorize Luther’s Small catechism together (it’s not very long). (4) Once a week, watch a service from another church. Many churches have done the same thing we have done. They’ve made their livestream permanent. Gather your family in the living room, or grab a cup of coffee and sit in your comfy chair. You might already have a church in mind, but here are a few suggestions of other AFLC churches that we already have some connections to: Our friends across the river at Christ the King Free Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Fargo, Grace Free Lutheran Church in Valley City, and Faith Free Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis.
For ten weeks we took worship out of our sanctuary and put it in your living room. Just because worship has returned to our sanctuary doesn’t mean it should leave your living room. When you return to the old habit of coming to church, hang onto your new habit of worshipping at home too.
The peace of Christ be with you all,