Rather than defending a traditional concept of community and common welfare in which individuals understand the connection between rights and duties, many who claim the conservative mantle substitute a doctrinaire individualism that ultimately benefits neither the individual nor society.
Through belief in Christ, the one who was born and lived among the marginalized, whose death was at the hands of the “powers that be” of this world, and whose resurrection, ascension, and promised return we take hope in, we learn to tell, and live out, a different story. The response of the faithful is not to turn a blind eye toward the sufferings of the world, nor to be willing or silently complicit partners to these sufferings taking root in political, economic, or social policies.
Hebrews 10:24-25 is a command to fellowship and to not stop gathering together as others have done. It is a command to encourage one another. How do we fulfill this biblical command while also following the local authorities’ command to “shelter in place” during these times? What is the role of the church during this historic moment? As some churches are grieving and others are calling this an opportunity for a revival, the inherent complexities of these questions and the reality of how one event can affect individuals differently are on full display.
Communal singing is an important way we as Christians connect with God and one another in worship. No matter our preferred style of singing or level of vocal skill, we use music as a source of spiritual nourishment. In times of troubles, favorite hymns or worship songs bring us consolation and comfort. In times of joy, we yearn to lift up our hearts in song. However, as we look forward to reopening our church buildings for worship, the future of communal singing is uncertain.
The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic should not be forgotten. Indeed, those lessons should fundamentally change how we do church, making us more creative. If we are assured of anything, it is that church can and should change so that it can meet the needs of others. After all, church was made for times like these, fostering connection when we so desperately need it.
We as a society are dealing with a lot of grief and loss right now. Woe to us, the church, if we don’t recognize and live into our crucial and unique role in this situation. In particular, I see two important but largely neglected roles for the church: public lament and grief shepherding.