For most of us, this is all so new and unusual.
Worship online. Praying over Facebook Live and Zoom.
Nothing in our faith life has quite prepared us for this moment. Our Pastors didn’t teach us about this part of worship in our confirmation classes.
So here are five tips for worshipping online during this pandemic and beyond.
On Sunday mornings, when we walk in to the church building everything is usually prepared for us.
The altar is set.
Colored paraments and banners are hung.
Candles are lit.
All these things are part of how we worship.
However, most of us have not prepared a worship space in our homes.
Think about it before Sunday morning: Where in your home will your worship? What screen will you use? Are there ways you can prepare your space?
There are lots of ways to prepare a space.
Maybe set a special cross near your screen to help you stay focused. Light a couple of candles to set the mood for worship. Maybe use a piece of cloth or fabric in the color of the church season to match the colors you will see on the screen. Icon and artwork of religious significance help many people to draw their minds toward God.
And don’t forget the practical considerations, too. Place your Bible, or maybe a Story Bible, in reach. If there is Communion during the service, don’t forget to have bread and wine/grape juice handy. Oh! And coffee. I try and make sure my coffee mug is full before worship starts so I don’t have to get up and fill it.
2. Worship is Social
On our way into worship at the church building, we say hello to all our friends.
We catch up on how everyone is doing, and we chat with each other about life.
This social interaction is an essential part of our worship!
Depending on what platform your online worship is happening on, there is usually a way to see who else is at worship with you. As people are gathering for worship, say hello. Greet your friends and neighbors.
Just like in-person worship, you don’t want this to interfere with your actual worship (side conversations during the sermon are usually frowned on 🙂 ). But as people gather, and perhaps in the pauses of worship, don’t forget about the social aspect of worship.
3. Worship is NOT a Spectator Sport
When we gather in person, we participate.
When called to pray together, we pray. We stand, we sit, we kneel. We sing the songs, and we recite the shared readings, prayers, and creeds.
Worship is NOT a spectator sport. It is always participatory, whether online or in-person.
You might feel silly singing along at home, either alone or with your family. But we’ve all seen you alone in your car – you LOVE to sing along! So go for it! Belt out your songs of praise.
Stop and pray as the pastor leads prayer. Say the shared prayed and readings with the pastor or worship leaders.
Just because you are at home, the participatory nature of worship doesn’t change.
You may even find meaning in moving your body as you worship – standing as you sing, sitting for the readings, kneeling for the prayers. Try out different things and see what is meaningful to you.
In the worship space, there is a back and forth between the worship leadership and the congregation.
A prayer is read, and AMEN declares the congregation. Hear our prayer, say the people. YES! proclaims someone when the preacher hits a nerve. There is laugher when the preacher strikes the funny bone.
Even the non-verbals. A head-nod here. Eye contact there. Moving to the music. A hand raised in praise.
All of these back and forth moments are important to our worship.
As a preacher and worship leader, I miss these things. Preaching to a screen is HARD because there is no eye contact, no laughter, no “amens,” no head nods. None of the feedback and conversation that is usually a part of our worship.
That’s where the comment section comes in.
Respond to the prayers. React to the sermon. Make note of an especially important part that spoke to your spirit.
ALL of the back and forth of worship – both verbal and non-verbal – has to happen in the comments section. Worship is not a spectator sport (see above), and the comments are one of the important ways that we participate in worship.
5. Hospitality Still Matters
Greeters. Welcoming visitors and newcomers. Making the space feel warm and welcoming. Inviting others to worship with us.
These are the responsibility of ALL of the congregation when we worship in person – and they are the responsibility of ALL of the congregation when we worship online.
When we worship online, we are significantly MORE likely to have visitors at our worship. At Spirit of Joy!, we know that we have had people worship with us from all across the globe – and this is true for every congregation that is worshipping online.
Say hello to people you don’t recognize in the comments. Introduce yourself. “Like” their comments. Basically, use all of the same manners and common sense that you use for in-person worship.
Take a moment as worship begins and click the share button – invite your friends and neighbors to join you in your online worship.
We are facing new circumstances for our worship.
But with some thoughtfulness and intentionality, online worship can be just as meaningful (and sometimes even more so!) than in-person worship. While we should grieve the things we miss about online worship, we should also embrace and make the most of this new thing to which God is calling us.