Soon, though, the novelty may wear off.
Now that you've been doing it for a few weeks, there's a danger of both losing connectivity to one another as well as the commitment to continuing this practice in these limited ways. How can you foster feelings of connection with God, with your community, and with the worship experience? How can worship remain a priority for you not just in theory, but in practice?
Preparation here now matters more than ever. Many congregations, when they gather, hear a leader say "Prepare your hearts and minds for worship." Now, though, we're called beyond hearts and minds. We're called to prepare hearths and selves, the physical spaces of our homes and the bodies we bring to digital worship. Below are 5 suggestions for preparation to magnify your experience of digital worship.
First, though, a disclaimer: This isn't advice for how to create the best technological experience. There's value in the right sound settings, turning your microphone off, and the like; this, rather, is about the space in which your technology is set and how to more fully engage worship in that place.
- Set (and Choose) the Space. If you're having trouble feeling like you're at worship, take a look around you. Is there dirty laundry strewn across the couch? Dirty dishes on the table? Garbage bags waiting to be taken out? Don't get me wrong. Those are all realities in my house! But they can often be distracting elements when I'm trying to engage in reflective and attentive worship. So we've set aside our guest bedroom as a space where we don't leave messes, where we clean and organize regularly, where we try to align the feeling of the space with the purpose of worship. Not that God needs a tidy space, but removing the normal distractions instead helps us to focus ourselves more on holy purposes. If you don't have a bedroom to spare, prioritize a corner of the kitchen table, a section of the family room, to set in order and prioritize worship for at least the time that you're planning to worship.
- Utilize Images. Art is a vital element of worship. Since the earliest Christian gatherings, words, images, and artifacts played central roles. Of course, the words of scriptures, both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, exemplified various kinds of linguistic art: poetry and narrative, song and prose and advice. Soon, other images, like paintings, drawings, and eventually icons, became central parts of the church's worship. Many elements like the altar and candlesticks, as well as the cup and plate (also known as a chalice and paten) of communion, contain types of decorating, from quite simple to ornate extravagance. For your own space, consider projecting or printing your favorite religious image that features community, like an icon of Jesus and the disciples, to help focus you on Christ and Christ's community. Consider hanging a cross and displaying your favorite Bible, open to your favorite passage.
- Remember Your Baptism. Once you've chosen and prepared a space, as well as decorated with imagery that inspires faith, one of the ways to mark an entrance into worship is to smash yourself with holy water. Many churches have the baptismal font at the main entrance, to signify baptism's role as the traditional entrance into Christian community. Whenever I pass a font in the church, I dip my finger in the water and mark a sign of the cross on my head. Consider, then, as you prepare for digital worship events, to go to the bathroom, wet your hand, and mark your forehead with the cross of Christ. Do you have a favorite decorative bowl? Consider fusing the art and the baptismal remembrance by filling the bowl and bringing it into the space you've set aside.
- Light Up Your World. Most churches utilize candles in some way. Originally, this was the only way you could light a home at night. Eventually, candles lit large temples and then catacombs for worship. With the advent of electricity, candles became more theologically useful. The lighting of candles signified God's presence, particularly around the places where the holiest things happened: around altars, pulpits, and the font. One candle, the Christ Candle, is lit only during the liturgical seasons where Christ is understood as presence. In your home-based worship space, light a candle to signify the presence of God with you, in your home. The warmth of the flame may remind you of God's comfort, and the flickering light of God's constant movement.
- Sing It Loud, Say It Proud! Once worship begins, whether you're by yourself or with a group of family, it can feel a bit awkward to join in litanies, to pray aloud, or to sing along the way you would in the sanctuary with your church. Remember, though, that worship is inherently participatory. So when you pray, pray with fervor. Let the words resonate from deep within you. When you sing, do it as John Wesley said: "lustily, and with good courage!" Yes, he really said that, and I agree! Shout to the Lord with joy and passion. There's no shame in passionate worship, no matter if you're surrounded by hundreds, gathered with dozens, or alone behind a screen, connected to the community through the internet.
Do you have other ideas for how to best prepare for digital worship? Share them here in the comments or on social media. Be sure to tag @FriarTuckTweets on Twitter, @LutheranFriarTucker on Instagram, and @Drew Tucker on Facebook.