It’s hard to imagine that only four weeks ago was the last time most of us saw all of us together. You’d probably have to go back a few weeks more to remember when our church was beginning to fill up with new students starting the year, visiting parents, newcomers along with all the regular faces we’re so used to seeing.
But that was then, and this is now. God’s people have always been a people called and gathered together by our God – and over the past 2000 years only in a few other rare and exceptional circumstances have churches not gathered together. It’s sometimes astonishing to think that it took an invisible virus to once again do prevent our gatherings.
But in 2020 our technological advances mean we haven’t stopped opening God’s Word with each other – online, digitally, through the screen. And with that has come a different way of looking at things, and a new learning curve.
As SLE Church closed its doors a few weeks ago and moved online, there was heaps of tension in the air. Behind the scenes we had guys like Ivan Tan, Li Wei Wee and Matthew Tao – along with the other musicians and PA guys working out all the tech of live streaming. (Drop them an encouraging message and say thanks!). We’ve had some hitches with live-streaming the second service that we’re aware of and ironing out. But we’re glad that it’s gone relatively smoothly.
Quite a number of our fellowship groups have been working out how to move online as well – using Zoom, Jitsi Meet, Google Hangouts, and other video conferencing sites. We’ve been able to maintain some contact, some catchups, and some prayer between us even as we remain socially distanced, and self-isolated. And if you’re not already connected in this way, let us encourage you to seek those options out – contact Ben, myself, or one of your fellowship leaders to get connected.
Feedback on these online gatherings has been generally positive – but there is one piece of feedback that has come up consistently – and it’s worth repeating: the feedback is that while online meetings have generally been ok, it isn’t the same as being face to face.
No, it isn’t. And I think this is all the more reason to keep persisting with meeting online when we can – and not just in our small bible study groups, but catching up with more people online 1 to 1. It isn’t the same, and every time we meet online we are reminded of what we have lost. You’d think that in this day and age of webcams and chat groups that we would overcome that loss – but something is still missing.
I miss seeing people face to face – of seeing you smile, of responding with my own smile, of you connecting with this and joy being shared. I miss looking at people’s eyes, of seeing the hidden joys and pains. I miss the appropriate hugs of joy. I miss the singing at church – oh how I miss hearing each other’s voices together!
And all of this is why we should persist in meeting online. Because with every online meeting we build up within us a longing for more, a desire for a return to our gathered time together.
One of my friends, Stephen McAlpine, wrote on his blog recently that after all this is over there will be a lot of hugging when church gets back together again.
But as much as I look forward to that day when SLE Church gathers again in person – that day will be a shadow of the better, brighter day to come.
It will be as it has been written in the Bible:
 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Let’s keep gathering together online, as a church, in our fellowship groups, and in one to one catch ups with each other. And let’s keep doing so looking forward not only to the day when we rejoice together as a church, but also looking forward to that day when we will rejoice with all Christians from history past and history future, around the throne of Jesus, forever more.
“He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Himself. And there will be no more social distancing. Ever. Again.”
– Stephen McAlpine