Scattered, online communion during COVID
Like many of us, I’ve spent far too much time staring at a screen this year. I’ve struggled with the disembodied gathering of a faith that’s all about embodiment- the God who puts on flesh and dwells inside a body. I’ve missed physical togetherness, bread crumbs underneath the communion table, and singing. However, I’ve found myself surprised by the depth of community that online forums have allowed within the Hope Uniting congregation.
Members of our congregation have been invited to gather for a zoom catch-up each Sunday morning since the beginning of the pandemic. These gatherings have been an unexpected blessing to the community. After some experimentation with format, we’ve settled on a structure around two questions. The first question, in lieu of morning tea chatter, allows us to get to know each other better (What’s your favourite Summer food? What’s your earliest childhood memory?). The second question connects to the theme or Scripture passage for the week, and invites reflection upon the reality of faith in our pandemic experience.
Each week the shared stories and insights have included the vulnerable, profound, and hilarious. While trying to understand why this depth was possible in Zoom (!) when it has sometimes seemed difficult within our physical worship services, we have noticed a few things. In our Zoom gatherings, we can all see each other’s faces. We are looking at each other and find joy in that connection. We are learning to encounter God in the faces of our congregation. In our Zoom gatherings, we use a mutual invitation turn-taking method. This means each household is valued and given space to tell their story. We give people the questions to discuss in the week leading up to the meeting. Everyone is able to participate without being put on the spot. We are learning to see that God has gathered us as one body, even though our life experiences are diverse.
Our online catch-ups work best when we acknowledge that we are not just friends gathering socially, even though we enjoy each other’s company. We are gathering around the story of the God we encounter in Christ. We are a community because of our faith in this story. Our first online communion at Easter highlighted this for me. It was awkward and messy and interrupted (mostly by my three year old). Yet I had a deep sense of Christ’s presence within and among us. The congregation, the body, were gathered there together. Each of us could play our part in the drama of the liturgy and contribute to telling the story. In some ways each of us were more present than usual as each household had to prepare the elements, light candles, break bread and take responsibility for their sharing in the meal. The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving says that the communion meal gathers us up across time and space and even to the life beyond death. This Easter’s scattered, online, Zoom communion embodied these words.
Rev. Rebecca Lindsay