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"Supporting SKMB Churches and Camps in making disciples."

Is This a Movie or a Worship Service?

“Worship forgets itself in remembering God.”-N.T. Wright[1]

Worship services have taken many different forms throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: pre-recorded services, live-streaming services, small in-person gatherings, Zoom calls, or some combination of the aforementioned. It is certainly not “business as usual” for pastors who are trying to plan a corporate time of worship as “our response to our Father for all he has done for us in Christ.”[2]

Much has been written about what worship is and what we are doing when we gather together on a Sunday morning. Of course, worship is a way of life for the disciple of Christ (Romans 12:1), and is not restricted to the corporate gathering. However, there is something deeply important about coming together as a community, where we are able to witness to each other and to the watching world what it means to follow the Triune God. We gather to be reminded, encouraged, built up, and, finally, sent out.

A key question for us to consider is “How does worship mediated through a screen affect our conceptions of worship and our role in it?” When I sit down to watch Jurassic Park[3] through the medium of a screen (thank goodness—those dinosaurs are scary!), the movie doesn’t ask anything of me. My job is to sit there and be entertained, and perhaps will the heroes on to a successful avoidance of dinosaur-related catastrophe.

A corporate worship service, though mediated through that same screen, should surely ask more of me and of us than to be passive spectators.  We are asked to praise and thank God, “for he has done marvelous things” (Psalm 98:1 NIV). We are asked to confess our sins. We are asked to consider how God’s Word is speaking to us today. We are asked to pray for those close and those far away. Quite simply, we are asked to “[respond] to our Father for all that he has done for us in Christ.”[4]

We must be careful that we do not let the consumerism inherent in the medium of the screen transfer to our attitudes toward and behaviour during online worship services. The service is not there to serve us; we are there to serve God. Thus, any questions concerning content and video production quality must be subsumed under a deep desire to worship God with our brothers and sisters, distanced though we may be.

 


Stephanie Christianson (MA in Theological Studies) serves as Adjunct Faculty Advisor & Instructor at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon. Her love for theology was nurtured at Bethany College, and now she loves to explore Anabaptist-Mennonite history & theology, nonviolence & divine violence, and the work of Miroslav Volf. Stephanie is married to Austin, who serves in pastoral ministry.

  




[1] N.T. Wright. For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997. Page 9.
[2] James B. Torrance. Worship, Community and the Triune Grace of God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996. Page 15.
[3] Jurassic Park. Universal Pictures, 1993.
[4] James B. Torrance. Worship, Community and the Triune Grace of God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996. Page 15.

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