Small Groups Keep Us Connected Amid Pandemic
Early in March we were instructed to begin a new thing – Social Distancing. It was a strange concept for us. It required churches to close the facilities where they meet — and to rethink what it means to be the body of Christ – the real church. I remember thinking and anticipating, like many of us, that for the next few weeks we will convene or gather “online.” But the “few weeks” quickly turned into a month. Then I remember saying to people – what a great Easter we will have! We will all be together again after this short break and have a huge celebration. We would be celebrating not only our Lord’s resurrection and, therefore, our hope of salvation, but we would also celebrate being together again. But it didn’t happen that way.
Now here we are in August and things are not better, but -– hear me —they are not worse than what those who understood the dynamics of a pandemic expected or predicted. They told us in March to expect what we see playing out today. We were warned that there would be a second wave that was worse than the first. And we were told that this wouldn’t be a week or two event. But, honestly I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t conceive it.
So here we are four months into a pandemic that we are being told will probably last about two years. And EVERYTHING is changed or changing — the way we buy groceries, how we shop or do not shop for anything and everything, how we plan our vacations, how and who we should contact, how we work remotely and how we love and care for our families and extended families. Now, while schools announce their plans to start (or not start) this fall, schools and classroom settings are looking different. Everything is changing.
Yet! We are navigating these changes! Admittedly, not without some consternation and confusion, but we are working our way though this maze of new thought.
Which brings me to a new way of thinking about being “together.” Prayerfully, Hope Church will be able to reopen soon. However, when we do reopen, we will gather differently. We will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks. What we do within our church building will be limited. It is all in an attempt to keep everyone safe. So – and you shouldn’t be surprised at what I am about to say — we need to think about how we can come together safely, especially in the realm of small groups.
In the beginning, we pushed for everyone to jump online in a small group. And it was awkward. I’ll be the first to admit it was more than awkward at times — it was painful. Computers were not capable of voice and video, we didn’t know how to run the platforms that would allow us to meet as a group, and once we got through all of that – there were times we would just stare at each other in silence. It was PAINFUL! However, now – four months later — I am enjoying my online small group more and more each week. We have learned to overcome the awkwardness of seeing each other AND OURSELVES on a screen. We are dealing with the slight glitches. The pauses and silences that happen while each of us actually take time to think on what we are studying — are no longer painful. What a joy to know that those pauses and silent moments at our computers while we think and absorb the study material — and the mere fact that we are still trying to “meet and be together” — are expressions of our faith!! They say we are taking our spiritual life seriously. What was at one time a worry is now an absolute blessing! In the comfort of our own homes, sitting at our tables, or on our couches or in our favorite chairs, God is in the midst of us! We are learning together, living together, keeping up with one another and, one of best parts of all, I get to see everyone’s beautiful smile not hidden behind a mask!! It may not be the same as in person, but boy, it certainly is much better than being isolated and trying to ride out this pandemic alone!
As I thought about our small online groups, I was reminded of Hebrews 10, specifically verses 24-25. Take time to read this larger passage to understand the full context, but hoping you recognize the timely and special meaning and message to us in verses 24 and 25!
Hebrews 10:19 Therefor brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“….not neglecting to meet together.” In these changing times, it is especially important that we find new ways to “meet” and be together — so that we may “encourage one another.”
Much more now than in March and April, I am encouraging you to be in a small group online. We still have a way to go before we are through this season. And, if the world we see in the news is any indication, and as time goes on, we will see more and more unrest and anger. Meeting together will calm some of that anxiety. Meeting together will remind us of the hope we have and will bring us comfort to know that we are not alone in this season of social distancing and social unrest.
If you are already in a small group – well done! I commend you for your determination to quickly plunge into this new world. If you are not online, please consider taking this step of faith into this new world. I promise you will not be disappointed! There are those of us who will help you get online and connected to a group and who will encourage you until you are enjoying being with others around the screen. Contact me at Tori@hopeindayton.org for information on a small group!