Being apart is not the normal impulse of the church, nor of human community. We are social beings. In the emergencies of my lifetime, the natural response is to show up, to gather, to experience a physical and spiritual commitment to make it through together. COVID-19 has changed all of that.
The church building has shut down. We are largely separated from one another in our normal ways of being community in fellowship, worship and missional service. We are needing to learn new ways of being together, being one in spirit and in truth.
The opening salutations of the Apostle Paul have been an encouraging companion to me in these last days. I cling to the builder of the new church as he was away from the various communities he sought to sustain. In prison, he was prevented from being physically with them. He seized upon the best technology of the day and wrote letters. The sublime prose of the letter to the Philippians has focused me in these days. Like Madison, Philippi was a flourishing commercial and governmental center. The community burgeoning Christian community was under threat. Paul sought to affirm the core commitments and practices that would sustain the church. In such a time as this, how do we keep the church unified and resistant to the threat?
Grace to you and peace from God.
I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident in this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me…(Philippians 1:2ff)
As we move through this time of separation and threat to our health, the fabric of our economy and the way of life we are used to, let us not give up the habit of connecting with one another. Let us encourage one another with hope. Even in the face of this deadly virus, let us share the abundant and eternal life we have received in the good word of Jesus.