Back in October of 2021, a post floated around social media professing that “you can’t worship from your couch.” This generated a mild sensation among pastors who serve churches taking full advantage of online ways to be “church.” Fast forward to the present, and yet again the internet is buzzing with a similar dismissal of on-line worship, this time in the form of an ableist and dismissive opinion piece from the New York Times. In this article, already limited in its accessibility behind a paywall, the pastor claims that with the pandemic being “managed” with masks, distancing, and a milder variant, all churches (and communities of faith perhaps) should stop online options to primarily focus back on physical gatherings. Yes, we have yet another iteration of the “you can’t worship from the couch” fallacy.
I shared my thoughts on Facebook in October, and these words seem just as relevant now: As church attendance again (and AGAIN) becomes a hot topic in our nation, and online services have become a vital part of FINALLY including an underserved people, it’s important to remember why community is important in ALL the ways that you and your family are able to connect, no matter the type of community you are part of.
As members of my own community have shared with me – while you may not be able to pack meals from your couch if you struggle with a chronic illness… you can sing and pray while worship is streaming. You CAN be surrounded by your community of faith if you are unable to get out of bed that day. You CAN still experience the power of God’s presence, even if you aren’t able to be with everyone together on your day of worship because of illness, the children are vomiting all over the couch, your anxiety or depression are keeping you to your couch, or your autistic child is having a hard day and the couch is a safe place for them.
People need community, and community comes in many forms. We can contribute letters and cards and Facebook posts and prayer requests and email encouragement and tithe from literally ANYWHERE now. We can serve, sacrifice, encourage, pray, and do life together both online and in person. And actually, many of us have already been doing it for years already. For my siblings in Christian communities, I hope that we will continue to use all available tools to meet people where they are in their lives, as a way to recognize their true value and extend real welcome. Online options are here to stay, and this is a blessing from God.
We can’t be all things to all people. But as people of faith, we believe our call is to meet and love people, in all the miraculous ways we can be embodied together, however we can. Holy, sacred community cannot be contained by four walls, for one hour per week. One can experience this on the internet, from your couch, and sometimes even in pajamas, at all hours of the day and night.
If it happens that the New York Times does not renounce or at least allow a rebuttal to the above-mentioned article, may I be so bold as to suggest some future answers to Wordle, the famous 5-letter word game they recently acquired. I, among others, have noticed some words that seem to be lacking, such as: world, agape, boost, links, pivot, and unite. Especially when so many communities of faith are, miraculously, getting this right.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.