Virtually the Same – by Paula Woodbury.
Watching Wilshire’s virtual service Sunday, I realized we are nearing one year of at-home church. I took a moment to reflect on Wilshire’s shift to a new way of worship. Turns out, I have a few observations. I thought I’d share them with you.
• You all have some cute homes and offices. I have enjoyed the voyeuristic peeks I’ve been given into your lives outside the walls of Wilshire. It has given me a sense of hospitality during a time where hospitality is eschewed. I was reminded that it is the people that make Wilshire special, not the building.
• Our faithful lab has attended enough services now to be considered a full Wilshire member. I regret to inform you that his contributions are as meager as his fetching and listening skills. Having him lounge with us during the services has reminded me that all are welcome at Wilshire (okay, this invitation probably doesn’t extend to stinky old Zeus, but work with me).
• As evidenced by my children, sitting up is not a requirement for worship. Our couches are overflowing with limbs askew every Sunday. When we return to in-person worship, we are going to need a pew to ourselves, or at least a few extra throw pillows and maybe a blanket. There’s nothing like worshiping from the couch to remind me that Wilshire is a comfort in scary times.
• Elastic is in; buttons and zippers are, well, superfluous. I would love to tell you my family and I have kept our tradition of wearing our Sunday best each week, but I would be lying. Dresses and heels have been replaced by yoga pants and house shoes. I anticipate I’ll need some sort of reentry plan before we return to the Sanctuary full time. Alas, I’ve been reminded that at Wilshire, it’s what inside us all that really matters.
• I’m embarrassed to admit, but I never knew the musical prowess of Jeff Brummel’s feet until now. It is just me or is anyone else fascinated watching his feet dance all over that little screen? I’ll never listen to the organ the same again. Worship and music at Wilshire is a carefully crafted gift to us and I am reminded to be thankful for those who give, full-bodied, to make it beautiful week after week.
• Speaking of that split screen foot action, how about the video production? I never knew Wilshire had so many cameras. I can only imagine the sweat and tears that go into producing the service every week. In normal circumstances, it’s easy to forget the efforts of those behind the scenes. But it’s hard to miss now, right? I’m reminded of so many people at Wilshire who work tirelessly behind the scenes every day to keep things running beautifully.
• I care less about the facial hair of our ministerial staff than I thought. Which is to say (no offense, George), I care not one bit. This season has caused us all to shift and grow in some ways we’ve wanted and others we haven’t. Some changes are visible and some are not. I’m reminded that change is constant and necessary for success, even at church. And that includes allowing for abundant flexibility on my part. So, keep the beard. Or shave it! Because bearded, clean-shaven, male, female, Black, Latinx, straight or gay; these are things that make up my pastor, but do not make my pastor. I’m grateful for a church that works hard for our leaders to represent the entire Kingdom of God.
All humor aside, I know none of this has been what we wanted for worship. Wilshire certainly has been required to quickly adjust and adapt. But, upon reflection, we haven’t truly changed. Like all of us, you may be weary of at-home worship, but do not grow faint, sisters and brothers. While the pews and halls may still be empty, what is most important still stands. If we take a moment to look, we can see it. The foundation upon which this community of faith is built is beautifully, thankfully, still the same.
Thanks be to God.
Paula Woodbury has been a Wilshire member since 1998. She is a deacon and teaches in Seekers Class. She is married to Jason and they are the parents of Garrett and Kathryn and guardians of Sher Moo Ku.