It took a year, but I finally made the decision to attend church online.
It doesn’t take the place of in-person worship, I firmly believe community is everything as a Christian, but here I am, an unvaccinated recluse who took too many infectious disease courses in college. I broke.
I find comfort in the past, so it wasn’t a stretch that I began watching the church service where I attended in college.
The church was on its deathbed last time I was there a few years ago, but the Lord breathed new life in it; now it’s a very family orientated church with a full sanctuary on Sunday mornings (no masks and no social distancing, but I digress). Gone are the days of college ministry and the college students taking up the pews. It’s not the same – nonetheless, I tuned in.
Their service was about what I expected. They’re a bit counter-cultural to the evangelical machine, which made me smile (free meals! no bootstrap mentality!). And then at some points, it’s a bit sticky sweet. Whoa, easy on the Christianese platitudes! Yet the preaching is solid, meaningful, and biblical.
And then it hit me.
The nostalgia evaporated as the service went on. As much as my heart rested there and if I returned to the city in a post-pandemic world, I’d re-join this church. They’d have no idea what to do with me as a childless woman in a nuclear family focused paradigm, but I think we would be good for each other.
But that’s just the thing.
I’m not there. I’m here, literally a thousand miles away. I haven’t been a resident there in seventeen years. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. I don’t carry the same theology I did at 22. I expected to be comforted by transporting myself to something I used to know, but it caused an uncomfortable feeling, like listening to a familiar hymn played on a very out of tune piano: I recognize the song, but the key is way off from where it should be.
I don’t belong with them either.
The pre-teen girl I remember back then is now a married mother of three. They knew me only as Sim, yet I go by Simonne now.
My current church here is too unsafe for my pandemic brain, so I haven’t attended worship, hence reaching out to this past church via WiFi. I’m still going to “attend” services online with this church, I just need to keep it in perspective.
And then, through the grapevine, I heard an apartment needed to be cleaned. A family living in their car for months on end secured non-govenernmental housing through a local non-profit. The last residents moved out and the apartment was a disaster, the director said, it needed a deep clean before this new family moved in. I volunteered to clean it. I did my best with my limited time and supplies I brought, but I left the apartment in better shape that I found it. I hope the new residents find rest for their bodies and souls in this place. I’m told they’re Christians, too.
I paused in cleaning and daydreamed out the the window into the neighborhood. Where I’m standing used to be a den of debauchery – prostitution and drugs were synonymous with this place. And now it’s a beacon of hope to a family who’s only known hardship.
I want that Jesus that makes things new: He who removes the rot and gives tools to get the filth out of kitchen counters and vacuums out the carbon flakes in the stove. I want the Jesus who rebukes the rich. I want the Jesus who meets with the wrong people and loves them. I want the Jesus who shows love and kindness to everyone – even those who mocked Him.
While my college town is far away, I’m doing my best to find ways to serve Him where I am planted, in this beautiful seascape of a town.
I encourage you to tend to the needs of your immediate community as an act of worship, even if your online church is in another time zone.