As a parishioner and communications staff member with both the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire and St. Paul’s Church in Concord, New Hamphsire, I am especially proud of the tender decision of Bishop Rob Hirschfeld, as well as my parish priest, the Rev. Kate Atkinson, to host Holy Week virtual services from their homes. Using the live-stream webinar capabilities of Zoom, a service might bounce around the state, with Bishop Rob preaching from his basement, a lector up in the north country reading scripture in their kitchen, and two musicians in a southern city playing in their living room.
While live-streaming worship from one’s home understandably feels awkward (the unfamiliar logistics of where to stand and wondering exactly how much of one’s home you’d like to share with the world) and admittedly results in less “polished” productions, I argue the pastoral care that results far outweighs any downsides:
Inclusivity and equality: For me, watching a select few gather to worship in the sanctuary and chapel that I miss so dearly would send the message that while some are special enough to physically be in the church, most of us are not. That would only increase the sense of isolation and loss we are all experiencing. While I mourned not being able to gather during this year’s Holy Week, not once did I feel that I was being “left out” of something. I always felt fully in equal community with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Solidarity: Seeing everyone Zoom from their homes encouraged all of us to persevere with physical distancing for our own sakes and the sake of others.
Sacred space democratization: This humbling time is surely teaching us that a grand procession, shiny chalices, or vaulted ceilings are not necessary to draw close to God, and that sacred space isn’t a certain physical location that we visit once a week - that it is instead anywhere we open our hearts to the Spirit’s presence.
No matter what fancy cathedral-like sanctuary I may be worshipping in for future Easter Vigils, I will forever remember this Easter Vigil as one where my colleague and our Canon for Ministry Development, Tina Pickering, rang in the news of the resurrection, not with the traditional jingle bells that are usually handed out by ushers, but instead with the wooden spoon and a cast iron pan she had handy in her kitchen.
There’s a pandemic-inspired cartoon going around where a satisfied-looking devil says to God, “Ha! I closed all the churches!” God’s reply? “Yes, and I opened one in every home.” I’m now a firm believer that, even if in the midst of a pandemic, Christians still have the joy to celebrate Christ overcoming death with whatever cookware they have handy, then the devil’s agenda doesn’t stand a chance. Amen and Alleluia.