Thursday, March 19, 2020

What we will NOT do. . .

There have been reports among some in Lutheranism and even from the ACNA of live streaming a priest/pastor speaking the Words of Institution while families are huddled around their own bread and wine, communing in the moment together but distant physically and geographically from the priest/pastor and the rest of the congregation.  Such a move is not now nor would it ever be part of the plan of the parish I serve and I would strongly discourage anyone from considering it.  We are not ready to tinker with the gifts God has given us for such experimentation will inevitably lead to the loss of confidence in the means of grace.

There will be times in which we will be forced to adapt (I prefer adding service times to accommodate the people of God within parameters that keep them safe rather than cancelling them entirely or relying on video --virtual congregations) but we must keep our heads.

We must also consider what we are doing in this urgency and how it may impact the future of what we do normally.  If we give into the fear and abandon the chalice entirely, how will we restore it when we have encouraged people not to have confidence in the cup?  If we teach our people that the Church can function all well and good within a digital framework, without face to face gatherings around the Word and Table of the Lord, how will break the new habit after 3 or 6 or 10 weeks and suddenly take away these screen versions of the Divine Service?  If over time our people become satisfied with the minimal direct participation in favor of the virtual church services through media, how will we rekindle the hunger within them for what God intended?

We have learned to our shame that exceptions quickly become norms and these norms become the routines against which the old normal must be argued.  This may seem like a trivial concern in a world hyped with threat, fear, and panic but we have already seen how quickly new ideas become the present routines.  The face pace of technological change means that our normal is constantly changing and adapting.  We may not like it but that is how things work today.

For the sake of the people and not for the sake of the Church and her institutional structures, we must do everything we can as shepherds of the flock to adapt and maintain the ordinary of people gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord -- even during times of test, trial, and trouble.  It is for the sake of those within our care that we as pastors and priests will be called upon to work harder and be even more faithful as this unfolds.  For the warning bells of those who try to look into the future suggest that this will not be a short term problem but might well extend through the next several months.  We have children to baptize, the faith to teach, the dead to bury, the sick to comfort, and the people of God to nourish with the Word of the Lord and Christ's body and blood.  All of these must continue to go forward even though we will have to work very hard to accomplish the pastoral task amid the uncertainties of the unknown future and the ever changing rules from government and medical authority.


Anonymous said...

ACNA stayed in ECUSA too long, and when they finally left, they brought the ECUSA virus out with them.

Fr. D+
Continuing Anglican Priest

John Joseph Flanagan said...

There have been pandemics throughout history. After awhile, people do go back to normal, but for now, the crisis is having a terrible impact and every institution in the world is affected. I pray that we get through this soon. If this does not drive more people to their knees before God, and cause us to examine our priorities, than nothing will. Lord help us all. Soli Deo Gloria.

Anonymous said...

The Continuing Anglican church I attend (Anglican Province of America - NOT ACNA) is prohibiting member attendance at the liturgy this Sunday. However, our priest and deacon will conduct a spoken liturgy with the Eucharist (solely for the clergy). We've been told they will livestream the liturgy via our church Facebook page. I think this is an overreaction but respect the sincere concern of our clergy. We use the chalice at or church and I don't anticipate that changing when this pandemic is over.

I read today where the Antiochian Orthodox church is limiting attendance at Lenten services and their Divine Liturgy to no more than 10 folks (including clergy). They are trying to follow the recommendations of our government leaders.

These our tough decisions for church leaders. They want to be good citizens and follow government directives. But now, more than ever, God's people need encouragement, God's grace (i.e., the Eucharist), and to pray. I don't know what is the perfect answer but pray this will end soon.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

It is important to remind ourselves that the Lord's Supper, a most blessed gift from God, is NOT absolutely necessary for the Christian. If a Christian is deprived of it for a time they have the WORD OF GOD which is THE chief thing and will receive God's full grace, mercy, forgiveness and blessing from the Gospel whenever it is heard, read, meditated upon, taught and preached. We need to be careful we not mislead people into thinking that their salvation is in jeopardy if they, for necessary reasons, deprived of the Sacrament. Deprivation of the Sacrament does not condemn a person, but rather derision of it. I am concerned that in our very correct passion to increase in our people a love of frequent communion we may have inadvertently misled them into thinking that the Lord's Supper is THE means of grace, above all the rest, when, in fact it is the WORD OF THE GOSPEL that is.