“If we choose to love only in a long-distance way, we will be deprived, for skin requires regular contact if it is to remain sensitive and responsive.” (Dr Paul Brand in ‘Fearfully & Wonderfully Made’)
Internet technology has allowed us to keep in touch from a distance during pandemic, but nothing can beat meeting one another in person, face to face: to hug, shake a hand, fist-bump or go elbow to elbow (though, as a tactile person, I much prefer skin-to-skin).
During lockdown I enjoyed the opportunity for creativity in making videos and connecting with people on our pre-recorded Facebook Livestreams. It was novel to attend Sunday services in my pyjamas in the comfort of home and Zoom made possible gatherings to learn, worship and do business together. But no virtual communication and connecting can replace the value and joy of meeting face-to-face, skin-to-skin. Yes, we can meet soul to soul and heart to heart in Zoom prayer & praise as our Wednesday prayer breakfasts prove, indeed we’ve had tremendously intimate and inspirational prayer times together. And at a wider level the Alpha Leadership Conference showed the power of internet conferencing, with openings for counselling and healing prayer. But I’m sure that it’s not just because I’m a ‘people person’ that I feel deprived without personal face to face meeting.
Our stuttering exit from lockdown has been frustrating, but yesterday’s Sunday services in Fullarton Connexions were helpful markers for me. We’ve moved from only a few sitting 2 metres apart in sanitised sanctuary to about two thirds of the packed gatherings we enjoyed pre-pandemic. Understandably there are some, for whom attending public worship in person is too much of a health risk, but I suspect that most of those who haven’t returned yet is due to fear and comfort (pyjama church). Then there are some who have drifted from weekly services and lost the drive or desire to meet regularly in public worship at all. Praise God there are some on journeys closer to Jesus who started with internet intrigue, inquired further and are finding their way into the Fullarton Church Family.
Yesterday at our 10.30am service, despite weather and mid-term break, it was thrilling to hear a real crescendo of God’s praise. Masks are so frustrating and steam up many of our specs, but I detect a determination to boldly sing through them and swell God’s praise, perhaps even louder than without masks?
Then at 3pm we had Sanctuary First’s weekly Live Service from Connexions. This is the first time for two years this national and international pioneer digital church has been able to come together virtually and in person. What a privilege to host Very Rev Albert Bogle and some of his Sanctuary First Faith Community via live-stream and in person. Appropriately LOVE (unconditional, sacrificial love of 1 Corinthians 13) was the theme and focus.
Typically, we had some technical issues to overcome but we got there in the end and were thoroughly uplifted and inspired to follow the King of Love ‘Jesus’ into daily life and living to explore, experience and express God’s profound Love for us and our world. Afterall, this is the Way of Christ, Who came ‘in person’ / ‘in the flesh’ all the way from heaven to be with us, in us and through us. As 1 John says ‘God’s Love for us is able to drive out fear’, echoed by a Bethel chorus, which means much to us at Fullarton, “My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your Love!” Friends, let’s not lose sight of the innate human need to keep ‘in touch’.