Sunday: reflections on worship when you can’t attend church

One of the hardest parts of strict bed rest has to be Sunday mornings, when I can’t go to church but my husband (our assistant pastor) spends half of his day there (8:00 am – 12:30 or 1:00 pm). I don’t think I can remember a time when I couldn’t go to church for such a long stint of time. Yet I am thankful that our God is one who comes to us, so that we can worship him wherever we are and that I don’t miss out on his grace simply because I can’t attend church right now. I miss church – don’t get me wrong – and it is a source of rich grace to be able to go, but God knows (and has arranged) the particular seasons of my life. And so he will also arrange another way for me to experience church on Sundays. So with this unique season comes unique opportunities. I get to be my own “worship director”, and so I try to make Sundays different from the rest of the days.

The church bells around the corner regularly call me to worship when their hymns begin at 9:00 am (lasting until 9:30 am). That’s a nice start to the morning. Then I choose a sermon to listen to online from one of my favorites: our pastor, Jack Howell; Joe Novenson at Lookout Mountain Pres.; Ruffin Alphin at Westminster Pres. Church here in Suffolk; Bob Willetts at Grace Pres. Church here in Chesapeake; or Andy Lewis from the church I grew up in, Mitchell Road Pres. Church in Greenville, SC. It’s been great to listen to these sermons and be taught by God speaking through them. It’s been great to see how God’s led me exactly to the right sermon I’ve needed each week. And really there are too many good ones to choose from, so I’ll probably be adding another one as my “Sunday school.”

I listen to some favorite worship music and sing along [but this part I think I miss the most about not being able to physically be present for worship at Trinity Pres.], trying to focus on the words and make them my prayer.

Another way I am seeking to tangibly engage in worship on Sundays is by spending time reflecting on what I am thankful for and then communicating that to various people who have loved and served us in the past week. Truly the list seems too large to recount, and when I begin reflecting, I am aware of God’s gifts in the church and the way that he is sending the Church to me when I can’t go to church. Seth and I have been so overwhelmed by the many who have helped us. I won’t list them by name, but I do want to list a few of the acts of service I’m thankful for today:

  • the friends who traveled from Philadelphia to spend last weekend with me and totally pampered me all weekend through their cooking, cleaning, creativity, laughter, and conversation
  • friends from church who have brought us meals, visited me for lunch, ran errands for us, went grocery shopping for us, helped Seth paint our home (a seemingly never-ending project), and even cleaned our house … wow. we are overwhelmed!
  • friends and family who continue to call or text to check in with me and see how we’re doing
  • thoughtful and encouraging cards we’ve received in the mail
  • two friends who threw their baby shower for me at our house – bringing everything with them, including serving dishes and utensils [since finding ours amidst the boxes could still be a bit dubious]
  • my parents who have made the 14 hour roundtrip yet again to come and help us get settled in, paint the nursery, etc …
  • and it goes without saying (but I should still say it!), my faithful and persevering husband who is not only assistant pastor, but also now home-repair project manager (a solo position now), chief chef, and home healthcare aide to a needy pregnant woman who can sometimes be cranky as well …

For all of these, and many many more, these verses Paul wrote to the Thessalonians come to mind: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

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