|By Andy Bratton, Senior Minister|
As we approach our 10th online worship service this Sunday, I think I speak for everyone when I say, “I want to go back to church!!!” I miss my church family. I miss seeing everyone’s faces. I miss singing together. I miss being on stage and knowing who is there and who is not by looking where you always sit. I miss Fuzzy’s war stories. I miss warm handshakes and hugs. I miss being tackled by the Zolenator. I miss Coy Little’s “bro hug.” I miss wondering what Larry Stern is going to say to me as a greeting every Sunday. I miss Joe Campbell jokingly referring to me as, “Reverand.” I miss seeing little kids running all over the place speaking to the life of our church.
However, as much as I miss everyone, I can rest easy knowing this is for a relatively short season and that it will pass. During our time away from the church I know of several people who have not been regularly attending but are regularly viewing our online service. I have the blessing of greeting some 30+ people every weekday morning with my “Morning Dive” devotional. We have been able to be creative and add different aspects to our services electronically. There have been several “wins” during all of this time away.
As I have thought about and prayed about re-opening the church and what that would look like, the deciding factor comes down to the same thing that Christianity comes down to. Will I live for myself or will I live to love God and love my neighbor? The decisions that you and I make about going out and about doesn’t rest on whether or not you and I are willing to get the virus. The decision rests more on what the possibility is that I will pass the virus along to someone else. My wearing a mask, which I don’t thoroughly enjoy, is not about my health and safety, it is about my caring about whether I help others stay safe and healthy.
My point is that when we come back together as a church, whenever that may be, will people know we are Christians by how we love one another, as Jesus stated in John 13:35? Or will we be accused of opening without regard to the world around us, namely Kalkaska? Will you and I be thinking about the people we might spread this to? Or will we be simply thinking about our “rights” as a free citizen to do whatever WE want to do?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” I don’t want our return to in-person church services to come across as a “noisy gong” or a “clanging cymbal.” I want our return to the church to reflect our love for God and our love for our neighbors. As we go forward in making this decision, please be praying for our leaders and for our church family to put love first.