COVID-19 lockdown restricting church meetings was needed in curtailing the spread. In Germany, restrictions were since March, though since early May, with precaution, some churches meet. At the outset, the ‘shutdown’ of churches was met with mixed reactions. This ban was historical, affecting church, mosques and other religious gatherings. For some, it was church persecution, no disease should keep them from worshipping God. Others wondered why preachers who claim to heal everything could not do same with CoVID-19 but closed church. While some preachers protested in the way they knew best, others asked their members to stay home.
In the following days, the church if I may use this collective phrase, bombarded the Internet. I thought this was marvellous! I could be part of any service in the world! I could listen to any preacher on Sunday I wanted to! My fantasies were short lived, that would be overwhelming, not to be talk of time zones. But it was nice to watch the few services I could from Ghana.
I belong to a tightly knit Ghanaian church and this virtual thingy has been a learning curve for us. I first titled this piece “church on a conference call”, I wanted to share how the experience of church on a call was. As I was used to conference calls for work purposes. It changed into this title because we transitioned to video conferencing and I thought to add that experience too.
The church phone conferencing was new experience. Initially I found it irritating with technical intrusions and background sounds from persons who were unaware. This was new to us all. Thus, sometimes people made other calls putting ours on hold, intruding private conversations, or TV. Later, repeated stressing of muting made a huge difference. When we switched to Zoom it was livelier, nice to see faces I had not seen in a while, with most people putting in the effort to dress up which was also nice. And Zoom made it easy to control unwanted background sounds. But video conferencing can be daunting, people come into your home, they are just not touching anything. For a church service, it will be awkward if someone or something you prefer to keep private launches in your video like this situation.
The positives I find are that church online has made uncomfortable places becoming comfort places for many. For example, for some, with the use of technology, though I believe a few are left behind. I like the convenience of being in church and on a walk at the same time. I like not travelling or dressing up and mostly being on time. It has as well been a wonderful bonding session for us as a district of four assemblies (churches) which seems like a convention each Sunday.
But we (I) do miss church, face-to-face church I mean. Church is not only church. For some, church is the one time in a week they dress up, dance, clap or sing. For some, therapy. For me, church is the one time weekly, I meet Ghanaians face-to-face and get in touch with my Ghanaian roots. I imagine that when we meet each other soon, we will appreciate each other more or better. I only imagine. But one thing I am sure of is that there will be people dancing, singing, clapping and shouting out loud like never before.