How do you do church in quarantine? Due to the coronavirus, the State of Iowa now prohibits all gatherings over 10 people (including spiritual gatherings). This is a wise and good prohibition during the coronavirus, one which our church will obey.
So what will we do?
We’re not going to live stream our church service.
Why? Because we don’t assume that every family (with children whose schedules have been disrupted and lives have been crazy) will all be available at the same time on Sunday morning. Their setting at home is so much different than what is available at church (for better and for worse!). While we only offer one gathering each Sunday and call our people to make it a priority, we recognize the strange period providence handed us.
So what are we doing?
On Friday, we’re publishing our order of service with our full liturgy. It includes responsive readings, songs (with embedded YouTube for those who desire it), written elder prayer, scripture reading, embedded sermon video (and manuscript), and benediction.
We’re encouraging families or small groups (10 people or under) to find a convenient time to gather over the weekend for worship. We’ve asked them to share leadership in reading the responsive readings, prayer, and scripture reading, and to discuss the sermon.
Do we think that offering such online resources is a substitute for an in-person gathering of a covenanted assembly of local church members? Absolutely not. But are we afraid that it will set a precedent for “video church” that doesn’t meet? Absolutely not.
Quarantine is no time to score theological points in ecclesiological debates. We will not refrain from acting because of what it might be interpreted to imply by some.
On multiple occasions, the Apostle Paul desperately wanted to be present with specific local assemblies but was providentially hindered. So, he used the technology at hand (ink, quill, and papyrus) to send a message. I have no doubt that, if possible, he would have recorded a video message to send to Rome.
Paul did not fear that the church might interpret a written letter as an acceptable means of gathering as a church. He didn’t fear it would lead to “churches” that don’t have someone preach in person but merely send out a weekly letter for people to read at home. Paul didn’t follow slippery-slope arguments.
He wanted to come as close to being with them as possible when providentially hindered from being there in person. We think it would be good, wise, comforting, profitable for our people to see the faces and hear the voices of pastors in a time when being together isn’t wise.
We think it would be healthy for them and their children during this quarantine to have some continuity. Our sermon series and liturgy provide some anchoring. So, we’re doing this as long as necessary and possible. We believe the Lord will feed his sheep through his shepherds. We trust he will create a longing to be together—and rejoicing when we can be.
We’re imperfect pastors, asking God for wisdom and doing the best we can.