THE NEW EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP VIA INTERNET CONNECTEDNESS
But what if I go to church on the internet. Is it real worship?
“Nope! It’s just watching, not participating. To worship with the church, you have to be in church in person.”
That’s compelling. Traditionally, "congregational worship” generally has meant that you’re “there”, gathered with other believers, in-person, in mosque, church or synagogue.
On the other hand, if you’re “present” via an internet channel you are praying the prayers, hearing the teaching/preaching. You’re “there” with a body of people in a real sense. It’s very different than if you were out mowing the lawn during the hour of worship, right?
So, I’d like to make a case. My position is that worship in person in a single sacred hall, church, mosque or synagogue is the “root”, the core worship model. However, limitations such as distance, disease (yours) or pandemic, particularly if the worship is led remotely by an authorized/ordained religious leader, is a genuine branch of the core in-person worship.
“Yes, okay for listening to teaching or preaching or sacred music, but what about traditional participatory rituals,” one could ask. Specifically for Christians, what about Confession, sacramental Holy Communion and Baptism? “Isn’t that different than the spoken word?”
Well, start with communion. Christian communion is led by a trained, authorized, ordained clergy-person for a gathering of believers. I see no problem if someone in Buenos Aires, “the communicant,” following the ritual via internet, supplies bread and wine for herself. She can believe that the words spoken in London (or Tokyo, or Moscow) will apply to her bit of bread and sip of wine. They will, in God’s grace, become the Body and Blood. Why not? Is God and God’s presence limited by distance?
The principle of spiritual presence over physical space can and should be considered, and extended. Religious communities need to raise questions and provide answers. Otherwise, as “connected” worship gathers momentum, large numbers of worshipers will be left without sacramental worship.
I will welcome any comments.
- Darrell Reeck