Today Rod Dreher spent some time reflecting on this piece from the Baptist Press concerning the long-term effects of Covid for churches. The church that gets most of the mentions in the piece is a relatively short drive (in TN terms) from my parents’ house. I have friends that have attended there. It’s definitely been a major presence in Middle Tennessee these last few years. Which is to say that it hits close to home in an interesting way.
The big question, of course, is whether or not churches with strong online shifts this year will maintain those shifts if/when things return to normal. Long Hollow Baptist seems to be prepping for a long-term shift, which is totally understandable. I shared the article with a friend who quickly pointed out that this is a shift similar to what schools here are facing: a 50/50 type shift where some people are present and others are online-only.
Dreher’s reflection on the SBC piece is spot-on in many ways. He doesn’t pull any punches (even the weblink mentions gnosticism which is simultaneously funny and sobering because it’s true). And that’s for both liturgical/sacramental churches as well as for evangelical/preaching-centric churches. I’m glad he mentions that being a liturgical/sacramental church is no guarantee of community, because it really isn’t. If anything, size might matter more than anything else (just read the comments attached to the reflection).
It’s really good to see this conversation happening. Online church is a bummer. But face-to-face church isn’t what it used to be either. “What happens next” isn’t necessarily up-for-grabs for any group, at least not completely. Groups on all parts of the spectrum can learn some things through all of this. But Christ and His community should stand at the heart of it. We ought not be “disembodied brains” guilty of a kind of gnosticism. Presence has to be prioritized. But they kind of presence and the purpose of the presence matters a great, great deal.