Commentary: As I entered the church on Palm Sunday, a woman drove up and shouted from her car, “Are there church services today?” She appeared to be seeking worship where people gather in a sanctuary. Though surprised by her query, I gladly invited her to join us online for our Zoom worship at 10am. (Five people met for virtual streaming.) She thanked me and sped off.
The experience of virtual worship has caught hold at my congregation. Though there have been a few kinks, people are showing up on Sunday mornings as though it is business as usual. In reality, it is. Many congregations, such as mine, were forced into the 21st century by Covid-19. A new virtual reality has appeared just in time for Easter.
Traditionally, Easter draws the largest worship attendance for the entire year. Any good spiritual practitioner worth their salt knows the significance of Easter and the imperative of being present on the holiest of holy days. Many adherents will not harken a church for another 365.
This year, tradition is broken. No need to show up in-person. In fact, that is verboten. You can participate in worship from the comfort of your bed, if you like. Just as Jesus was known by his mastery of breaking down barriers. Covid-19 has broken down the barriers (and excuses) for attending church.
You can practically read your New York Times and attend services at the same time.
This new worship frontier is an important means of staying connected in this era of self-quarantine and social distancing. It affords people a non-traditional means of being together in a shared space for a common purpose that is ultimately transformative. You enter the virtual space one way and leave another - uplifted, connected, and inspired to serve.
In my tradition, Unitarian Universalism, there is more emphasis on doing than believing. UUs don’t shun belief, but rather find thier spiritual center in the here and now: living a life of love, compassion and affecting systemic change. These are universal values that can ground us all in uncertain times.
Being grounded amid mounting illnesses, deaths, unemployment, shuttered healthcare systems, empty shelves in local grocery stores and fear of exposure to the contagion is an essential quality, if you can get it. Easter Sunday provides us an opportunity to pause, embrace a moment of stillness, then use that stillness to center ourselves for the long-haul.
For the “Spiritual but Not Religious and” “nones,” people less inclined to religious beliefs and faith commitments, I commend to you the cycle of nature and the beauty of springtime as a source of inspiration and awe. The desert landscape has as much to behold that can expand your inner life beyond imagination. Being outdoors this time of year in Las Cruces is a special kind of virtual reality that most of us can appreciate.
However, you spend Easter Sunday, wherever you are, may it be a day of hope and possibility that sends your spirit soaring.