Undeniably, almost all of us Seventh-day Adventists were quite unprepared for this unorthodox demand of “digital world-shift”, inevitably eventuated by the injunctions of social distancing. In the effort to “flatten the curve” with this pandemic, our Adventist churches corroborated with the implemented mandates from the state, to steer clear of any social and implied spiritual gatherings. It was for all the good intended reasons, yes, our church needed to pave the way to set an example for any other religious and secular organizations and more significantly, in keeping with what’s most fundamental to us and that is maintaining our perspective on health being the right-arm of the gospel.
Yet this has consequently initiated slight repercussions among the church members, as a good portion of us, well-meaning Seventh-day Adventist church members find ourselves in the wake of confusion. All of sudden our years of Sabbath gatherings in these now seemingly ancient walls have in the blink of an eye come to an abrupt halt. The hollow sanctuary, now stands in silence for more than a dozen Sabbaths, with its concrete walls bouncing off echoes from the passing on vehicles by the roadside. Unoccupied seats were enveloped with dust particles and emptied car parks deserted by people.
Traditionally in a typical Sabbath, the church was always hymns of praises from those old torn hymnals pages. It was almost always lesson study guides to even the filling in of tithing envelopes, it usually flooded with discussions, interactions, congregational singing, lyrics flashing on screens, children’s sermonettes, sermons, and potlucks. Adventists youth fellowships, bible quizzes, and scriptural memory gems. The excitement to commune with a fellow Adventist, the rapport of believers with enlightened faces, the intermingling of young and old, strangers become friends, skeptics become believers, and not to mention those familiar smiles on the well-polished edges of pews each Sabbath. Bible studying was always central, spiritual nurturing was key, all those early morning meditation and devotions; refreshing, Sabbath afternoon’s community outreaches; satisfying. Vespers and midweek prayers, during the week, keeps the church family cooperatively strong at core and closely connected to God. Yes, yes all of these were almost always church to us.
I am well aware that one would strongly argue that church isn’t merely the building structure but the congregation. It is not the routine program sequences nor the delicious potlucks however with the implication that church service is not exclusive to regular congregational attendance of Sabbath observance in a particular building but wherever there is a congregation of two or more people that is the rudiments of a church. I mean fundamentally isn’t that the definition of the church after all? where the church is the individuals themselves, where it is about relationships and community but not merely the structure built? Absolutely, nonetheless, I’m strongly under the impression that the idea itself although true, was not always our every Sabbath thought-pondering subject, when we enter into those halls of worship to commune with God.
I understand that in the wake of this pandemic, adherence to social and physical distancing is one of the least that we as a church could do, to promote prevention and mitigate this exponentially spreading virus. Yet even with the execution of such an astute strategy to battle this virus, a significant number of devoted Adventists generally seem to see the picture from a different perspective. The idea that this is a subtle form of restraint from attending regular sabbath worship has grown profoundly in many of us. It turns out that the impact of the pandemic on our church has given us a glimpse of the fateful events anticipated to happen in the near future.
It is however not my intention to argue whether what’s happening is a subtle form of persecution as some may think or just a mandatory process that we need to subscribe to in order to deal with this pandemic. All I could say is, times of upheaval are times of radical change. If and when this pandemic passes and the church comes out of it with the same attitude just like it had gone in, this then speaks volumes of how lightly the church has taken its apocalyptic preparations. The ill-favored approach (Lord have mercy), would be to come out of this pandemic without even the slightest change for the better. If anything, we should see this pandemic as God’s “wake-up call” of grace to us.
This is us in the boat fleeing to Tarshish in a deadly tempest, only to be provided a fish to swallow us to safety, this is us mortified by the discomfiture of the pigsty, only to be welcomed with open arms after a prodigal living, this is us sinking in the sea after shifting our gaze from Jesus, only to be saved by Him. Given is the opportunity for us to take full advantage of, and say with David; “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts”. This is our moment to recuperate, refocused and now more than ever, fix our eyes on Jesus. In the midst of this pandemic, may we be seen as the church that stood unshaken, as the immovable pillar of hope for this generation, though a locked-down Church but yet a living church..
Originally published at http://whitehorse347502880.wordpress.com on June 23, 2020.