Every Sunday before now, Easter was the guaranteed highest attendance day of the church year. Attending church on Easter Sunday is a minimum requirement for people of faith. There’s a silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic: you can attend church on Easter without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Zoom church eliminates that worn-out tradition of wearing your Sunday best. You can wear most anything! The real action, though, is socializing in the virtual “chat rooms” before and after worship. Faces light up like neon lights when people see each other.
People want the community because it reminds them that we are connected despite self-quarantining and social distancing. There’s novelty in connecting with good friends via a Zoom window while getting your church on. Where else is chatting acceptable during the sermon without getting the “stink eye?”
But more is going on in Zoom church than streaming and techno-chat. People are experiencing a form of stillness. They are seriously embracing being present and anticipating a “word” of hope in the midst of the unknown and unfamiliar.
Stillness transforms anxiety into peacefulness. Stillness transforms chaos into calm. Stillness transforms fear into hope. In times such as these, we need all the peace, calm and hope available. If it comes through Zoom church, ashe — a traditional African affirmation, and may it be so.
In my tradition, Unitarian Universalism, there is more emphasis on doing than believing. We don’t shun belief but find our 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.
Particularly at Easter, each of us can find ways to show love to those we encounter even while social distancing, extend compassion to someone who is struggling to make it from day to day and practice ethical living by, if nothing else, demanding our elected officials honor their oaths and make sure their constituents have basic necessities during this pandemic.
This may not sound very religious to many who view Easter as a day of reverence. I would argue that reverence need not lack a mindset of action or doing. Remember, Jesus issued a stern reprimand to Martha for inaction while Mary was getting things done (Luke 10:41).
My hope is that while we are gathering for Zoom church this Easter, people are inspired to remain calm in the midst of chaos, but also inspired to check in on their neighbors and find ways to help those who are most severely impacted by the pandemic – health care workers on the front lines; restaurant workers preparing, handing out drive-through and delivering meals; and others who must show up to their retail jobs and the like.
Yes, it is easier to go to church this Easter than ever before. But, may we find ways to move beyond the virtual reality of worship and make a difference for others during this unusual time.