During the early days of Covid-19 when we were sheltering in place, I yearned for human connection. Rather than in-person visits, I had to be content with Facebook live stream or Zoom meetings with friends. I live alone so there wasn’t someone to share the space with me during the first days of the pandemic.
One thing I changed while sheltering in place was I decided to not return to the megachurch I was attending before Covid. I am back at my small, ragamuffin, frayed a bit on the edges church where I had been attending for several years prior to my megachurch experience. It just feels right. A smaller place has been good for me. On a good day, before Covid-19, the church averaged about 80 to 100 folks. Due to the whole pandemic thing, with state restrictions on sizes of gatherings and required face masks, we are lucky to have 20 or 30 souls on a given Sunday.
One good thing about a small church is that I can look into the eyes of my pastor when he speaks. At the megachurch, it was easier to stare at the big screens on each side of the stage. Conversely, the pastor can see me from his perch at the front of the building. Am I fading out? Am I reading stuff on my smartphone rather than listening intently. (Yeah, not a good habit, but occasionally I do this.)
Another good thing about a small church is that I know the names of the people in the room. All of them, or close to all of them, anyway. And they know my name. Like the old refrain from the TV show, Cheers, it’s good to be where everyone knows your name. If I miss a Sunday, somebody is bound to run into me during the week. That somebody is likely to ask why I wasn’t there. I don’t mind. I don’t feel like they are being nosy or judgmental. They just care about me.
That brings me to the meaning of the word, church. It derives from the Greek word, ekklesia, which means an assembly of called out ones. It can be also described as a body of faithful people. That’s what each one of us needs, a body of faithful people. A friend pointed out to me the meaning of ekklesia as a body of faithful people this weekend.
Your body of faithful people may or may not be a group that you see on Sunday in a church building. It may be a group of devoted friends and family that make up your particular “tribe.” They might be Catholic (big C), as in Roman Catholic or catholic (little c) meaning the church universal. Maybe your tribe doesn’t have a particular creed that you share in common. You may just be committed to each other, not necessarily to faith in God.
I often read that loneliness is one of the most common problems in our nation today. I think that finding an ekklesia, a body of faithful people, is something that can alleviate that sense of being alone. Loneliness is not just a problem for single people. For married or single people, or divorced or in a committed relationship, loneliness can be a scourge.
Personally, I believe that being part of a church is good for me. The God element is important to me as part of my community. I want to always stay in fellowship with other Christians. However way you do it, find your ekklesia, your group of faithful people.