This article originally appeared on March 28, 2020 at Worship Overflow and reflects my desires at the time for churches entering into the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, many churches are canceling their services for the foreseeable future. I obviously have not done an exhaustive study of how churches are handling this. But I have noticed a pattern of pastors emphasizing the need to make decisions about church gatherings out of love rather than fear, providing videos for church members to watch on their phones or computers, and encouraging families to spend time in prayer and family worship.
I’d like to add to that conversation that we have a really unique opportunity here now. For the first time in church history that I’m aware of, masses of Christians will not be gathering together on Sunday mornings. Many of us who have spent our entire lives in church on Sunday mornings will feel disconnected from the Body and yearn to be reunited again.
My prayer is that this will be an opportunity for Christians to experience presence with a much more universal family. Science reveals to us the relation of all things. Through nature, we can see how ancient stardust and wonder-filled children are connected. Through nature, we can discover how far distant quasars and the smallest of flowers are related. In other words, now that Christians have to spend weeks and possibly months outside of the four walls of the church building, we have the opportunity to connect with God and with all of creation on Sunday mornings.
St. Francis of Assisi wrote,
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.
St. Francis saw how all of creation is relationality. We connect with God when we connect with our brother the sun and our sister the moon. We connect with God as Father when we embrace Earth as Mother. When we gather and gaze into the face of Brother Fire, we see the playful, robust strength of God manifesting God’s Being in all things, as all things live and move and have their Being in God. When we walk beside our Sister Water, we experience the preciousness of God. And I’d add, we also see the playful robust strength of God in her as well.
Over the next couple of months, I’d like to share some ways each week for us to spend our Sunday mornings connecting with and being present with the manifestation of God, not in the relationality of humans within four walls, but in the relationality of the entire universe outside of those four walls.
My prayer is that this time will not be wasted waiting to get back to going to church again, but will be fully experienced in a more expanded awareness of relational presence that is very good.
So for this Sunday, perhaps take the opportunity to get outside, go for a walk in your neighborhood, take a hike in the forest, go sit beside a lake or a stream, and contemplate the manifestation of God in the relational presence of our universal family. Perhaps even print out this liturgy from St. Francis, go outside, say it aloud, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and then open them to see your universal Family in wind, birds, trees, grass, ants, squirrels, and water. Perhaps, our being exiled from our buildings may reveal itself as a much more expanded, universal Family Reunion.