In the last three weeks, we have had three completely different Sunday meetings as Albury Bible Church.
Week One was ‘normal’, as we used to describe it. In the hall at Albury High School. Sunday school in a classroom. Set up and pack down, including signage, PA and music. That was our week in Hebrews 9, the reminder that ritual does nothing for Christ is the real priest who does everything.
Week Two saw rules intended to slow the spread of corona virus, including a government ban on meetings over 100. We are not that large: no change for us! So we thought, until the education department decision to halt community use of buildings as another useful public health measure. Hastily, we arranged a Sunday gathering outside at the church office (aka, my backyard).
In a beautiful touch, we knew this would likely be our last gathering like this for some time, even as we turned to Hebrews 10 (“not neglecting to meet together …”). As the kids enjoyed more than 4m2 each inside the office, we discussed options for our church life. How will we stir one another up towards love and good deeds?
And so to Week Three – the ‘new normal’? – meeting online from home. Perhaps the most remembered verse of Hebrews 11 tells us that the experience of faith apprehends what we hope for and yet cannot see. Real things, that are beyond sight and touch, are known as real through trust (see Hebrews 11:1).
I love church and seeing my fellow church members. Here was ‘church’ when not one of us left home, and the ‘sight’ of my family in faith was via a screen. The gathering was not real, but virtual. The sight was also not real, but virtual. Yet, through faith, our gathering and mutual recognition were real.
Each of these three weeks differ significantly. And there are obvious downsides to every way we gather. Despite these, each week encouraged me to press on for Christ, and each week left me thankful for the body of Christ of which I am a part. At the most profound level, there is no difference between what happened any Sunday.
On the last three Sundays, we had church, church, and church. And it was wonderful!