It has been 19 weeks now since we switched to a livestream Sunday morning service.
A very long time since we have been able to meet together face to face. Undoubtedly online services have had their benefits:-
We don’t have to get out of our slippers.
We can drink a cup of coffee during the prayers/kid’s slot/sermon.
We haven’t had the difficulty of finding a space to park in Cyprus Avenue.
We haven’t had to talk to someone we don’t want to bump in to!
Yet something is missing!
In the Old Testament, the Psalmist reflects on something deeply significant that he is no longer able to enjoy.
“O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; ever praising you”. (Psalm 84:4)
Writing to his Christian friends in Thessalonica The Apostle Paul centuries later wrote:
“We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face.”
(1 Thess 3:10)
In person, physical fellowship was important to Paul.
Sure, he could (and did write) to them.
But that wasn’t enough.
Remote fellowship wasn’t sufficient.
Likewise, writing to fellow believers, The Apostle John said:
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 12)
Papyrus was good but he knew personal interaction was better. Zoom has its place. Skype, texts and What’s App have been useful but they are no substitute for real life fellowship.
Very soon:- Sunday 16th August 11am, we will make our first tentative steps back to live worship in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in tandem with livestreaming. Yes, we will begin small (80 people) in the sanctuary and build up as we gain confidence, but it will indicate our desire; more our longing, to return to worship as it used to be; as it ought to be. Let’s not go from people who can’t go to church to people who won’t go to church. There is too much to miss out on.
As the writer to the Hebrews says:
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but chose instead to encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Do the familiar words of Psalm 84 now strike us with fresh power and resonate more deeply?
‘How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! to me. My very flesh and heart cry out O Living God for Thee’.
Every line of the Psalmist’s song expresses a deep desire to return to the familiar, dear place where God and his people meet:- yet deeper still than affectionate longing for a particular place, the worshipper expresses an indescribable yearning for the very presence of God.
I am delighted that three members of our own congregation along with two friends from Fitzroy Presbyterian and Holywood Parish have produced a lovely new setting of Psalm 84.
Thank-you to them and to John Campbell for coordinating this initiative.
And God willing, see you soon. In person.
Til then, huge blessings from Frank