It is safe to say that the last few weeks in and around Kings have been dominated by making face-to-face church gatherings a reality. Thankfully, none of the serious side of this complex task has been left up to the new Intern team (phew!), but it has been a huge effort from many people to get the correct documents in place, the tech sorted and the COVID-19 protocols written and followed. The number of hours of work and consideration that have already gone into this has been huge, and we have had to adapt with alarming speed to changing situations and restrictions.
There was a point at the start of all this chaos where it felt obvious that church would carry on as it always had come the new academic year; that services would be in person, singing gathered and post-service coffee conversations suitably awkward. There is a certain reassurance in everything carrying on in their previous imperfect but well-worn ways, and to step into new patterns of doing things will always feel strange and daunting. For myself, the ability to meet in person, even without singing praise together or chatting, is a huge encouragement and I am immensely grateful for all that the staff have done to make this possible.
I tried last week to think through how to explain the value of meeting together in person, to someone who does not go to church. What about the experience was so uplifting, or different to meeting online as we have over the summer? Why am I drawn again to wearing my mask, maintaining social distance when I would rather not, and welcoming people who are similarly apprehensive?
Whilst thinking, I was reminded of a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book on Christian community, Life Together:
The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
I think this is the true value of meeting together, that we can encourage and affirm one another better than we can do so on our own. Even when we worship silently, or with clapping and humming rather than with words, we are more able to speak the truth of our relationship with Jesus when gathered than alone.