By Ps Tan Hui Ru
It’s been nearly a year since the first closure of church services in ORPC. For much of this time, we’ve been saying that there is nothing wrong with moving our worship online, with moving our meetings online, that the important thing is that we still meet. After all, Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We could not meet in person, but we did not stop meeting.
But second-best is not the same as the best. Being a virtual congregation is not the same as being an embodied congregation. Worship as individuals or families scattered across the island isn’t the same as worship as part of a larger embodied congregation gathered in the name of God to worship Him. It’s not that we can’t worship God as individuals or families, but that there is a value to our gathering as a larger body of Christ. The body of Christ gathers as a physical presence so that others can see our testimony to God, so that we can see each other and be encouraged in our faith, so that we are reminded of who we are corporately—a community gathered by the grace of God, dependent on him, and honouring him, in the words of Everett Ferguson. We gather to worship God, and that has nothing to do with whether or not we can sing in church. It has nothing to do with whether we can talk to people around us in church, or about the discomfort of having our masks on for extended periods of time. Gathering as a church is not about us—it is about worshipping God, it is about the corporate gathering encouraging the individual.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together said, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” I would add that it is not just a source of joy and strength to the believer, but a source of wonder to the unbeliever, and that God is pleased with us when we prioritise the family that He has given us, the family of God’s children, bound together with the blood of Christ.