"Jesus himself stood among (the disciples)... He said to them...Look at my hands and my feet and see that it is I myself; touch me and see"
(Luke 24: 36b, 39a).
The Gospel reading appointed for this week tells us of the physical presence of Jesus coming among his gathered Apostles on the evening of the resurrection. The physical connection between the disciples and our risen Lord is a crucial element of the Gospel story. We have an incarnational faith, being physically with one another is integral to what it means to be the "Body of Christ." And we not only meet the presence of God in the spoken word, but also in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of communion, in signs and symbols, smells, taste, touch, and in the presence of one another. We Christians have been through a lot in this pandemic, but physical separation is among the greatest losses.
We were blessed to make the first move toward physical presence in worship a few weeks ago when we returned to the 8:00 mass outdoors. Now we are making plans for the next step -- indoor worship in the church beginning in May. Now it still won't be exactly as it was when we left the church over a year ago. We still will maintain the protocols to protect public health outlined by civil authorities and by our diocese. But we will have a single service that will also be live-streamed so that everyone in our congregation will have the opportunity to worship at the same time -- physically or digitally present. Additionally, we will continue Christian Education, and begin in-person Compline once a month, also in a hybrid form.
Recorded services have allowed us to explore the visual richness available through that medium, and to edit in musical and artistic elements. Our live-streamed services will not allow us quite the same flexibility, but we will have the benefit of worshiping together in the hybrid physical/digital format. Details about the service will be forthcoming after our Vestry meeting this coming week. We encourage as many of you as feel comfortable to join us in person. We will require reservations due to limited capacity. The plan we are setting forth will guide us through the summer.
We are moving forward by steps, and hopefully, we will be able to move toward fuller expressions of our worship in the fall. It is helpful for us not to think of these as moves "back to normal." There will be things we will have learned and will do differently that will never be the same as before March 2020. We can't help but trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us to new places we never imagined. So we aren't going back; we are moving forward with our Risen Lord who invites us to see him present with us pointing toward the future. Alleluia! Christ is risen!