Slouching Won’t Do During a Church Service, Even When One Held Online

I don’t have much experience watching a church service from home. Let’s see: I’ve watched (42 years married to an organist x 52 Sundays per year, throw in a few extra for Christmas Eve and Easter): 2,222 services in church vs. 10 online. But, it’s time to make use of the technology.

Eric Sebo

Thirty minutes until the service begins, I stare at the clothes in the laundry basket and the pile of papers to the left of the computer but opt for browsing my iPhone. Fifteen minutes out, I make sure I’m logged into the proper website, my coffee within easy reach of my left hand, so my right is free to navigate the mouse. Then I stare at the screen: No one to greet in the pew two rows behind me and no one to ask, “How has your work week been?”

Then an image on the screen appears. I sit up (slouching won’t do at a church service) and move my chair closer to the screen.

During COVID, the prelude is performed by a small group of singers accompanied by organ or piano. The prelude serves as my transition from the scattered thought brought in from the outside world to the present moment, opening my mind to the message to come.

As the pastor approaches the lectern, it’s human nature to check whether there is a look of concern. Instead, there is an air of confidence in his smile: perhaps, all will be OK. I lift myself from my chair in response to the call to “rise in body or spirit.” Some traditions are important to follow, whether at church or at home.

“I’m glad my Sunday tradition is attending a church service. Even one from home.”

After a few words on the church schedule, the camera returns to the musical ensemble, ready to sing the morning hymn. I appreciate the words scrolled on the bottom of the screen and join in the singing.  

The sermon begins with the topic introduced. It’s hard not to be distracted as we watch online. At church, the beauty of the stained-glass windows fends off random thoughts and brings me back to the spoken word. But at home, there are no such windows: Just the basket of laundry and pile of papers. Content at my accomplishment of shuffling a few papers, my attention is drawn back to the screen and the remainder of the sermon. I’m comforted in knowing I can listen to the missing part later on.

The benediction concluded; I wait for the organ postlude. These days, the postlude is limited to certain occasions, and today is one of those special days. I wonder how many will remain online to listen, then remind myself it’s not the number that’s important, rather the spirits lifted.

The image of the church room comes to an abrupt halt, and the computer screen becomes, well, a computer screen once again. As I grab my coffee and head to the kitchen, I’m glad my Sunday tradition is attending a church service. Even one from home.


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Eric Sebo

Eric Sebo, a retired IT technology manager, belongs to Lovers Lane United Methodist, where his wife is the church organist. Visit peoplenewspapers.com to read more of his thoughts about online worship.

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