Worship anew – in every situation

The year 2020 has been challenging for everyone. In the midst of a great deal of stress and uncertainty, COVID restrictions meant that we had to stop gathering for weekly church services. This central expression of Christian community was suddenly cancelled.

This could have been a disaster for the church, but God is good, and his faithful people have continued to find ways to share the Gospel and minister to each other despite the challenges. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones or who have struggled with separation from family and isolation. Amongst the grief and the stress, there are some amazing lessons we can learn from worshipping differently this year.

We are more technologically capable than we thought. A major change to worship for many people was the sudden shift to using all kinds of technology for worship. In a very short time, pastors pivoted to delivering services via Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, TV and other online platforms. Many of us had to grapple with accessing online resources. It has been incredible to witness many people who felt they weren’t capable of managing computers persisting and learning to use these new technologies.

Pastor Darren Kupke of Temora Lutheran Community Church in NSW reports that his congregation used Zoom, because “it meant people without internet could join in on the phone. The biggest challenge was convincing people how easy it was to use the phone or online Zoom link. A significant number initially joined over a phone call and then transitioned to using a device.”

Among the many congregations I have contact with around the country, most are continuing their online services and resources. One pastor noted that even though his congregation has returned to public worship, there are still a lot of people accessing the weekly recorded services online – many more than attended church prior to COVID. That congregation is planning to continue having an online presence even once this crisis is passed, seeing it as a wonderful way to witness and to share the Gospel. The pastor described having both an online service and a live service as, “One church, two rooms”.


Worship for the isolated. Another result of the pandemic has been a growing awareness of the isolated in our community. While many of us struggled with isolation measures, in looking for ways to support worship outside of “normal church”, it became obvious that there are people who are always isolated and who may be missing out on worship and the fellowship of the body of Christ.

Our attention was drawn more sharply to people in aged care and hospitals. Chaplains in our aged care centres are doing a marvellous job, but found it very challenging supporting residents when gatherings, even within homes, were not allowed. Compounding this have been the restrictions on visitors.

In Melbourne and Adelaide, we were blessed to have community television stations who were willing to broadcast Lutheran services each week so people could worship without computers. St Paul’s Box Hill, Vic, St John’s Unley, SA and Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide, SA worked tirelessly to ensure these broadcasts went out each week. Box Hill and Unley are continuing with this ministry even now. Pastor Andrew Brook of St John’s Unley says, “We believe that God is calling us to this hybrid ministry into 2021, and we thank him for the gifted and passionate people at St John’s who give of their time to make this happen”.

Others are isolated by their location and limited access to the internet. In addition to their Zoom services, the Temora community went a step further; they started broadcasting on the local radio station. Every Sunday afternoon the radio station started broadcasting a two-hour segment called, “The Lord’s Good Word”, including messages and music from all the Christian denominations in town. Pastor Darren records his sermon each week, and reports that a lot of people are listening, including many who haven’t previously attended a church.

St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa, SA delivered DVDs and bulletins to people in its congregation who couldn’t access online services. At its peak, the congregation was preparing DVDs and bulletins for 60 households each week. A willing band of volunteers deliver the DVDs each week.

The body of Christ is really important. The efforts of volunteers like those at St Petri are a reminder of how important the body of Christ is. Lutheran congregations and individuals really stepped up during this crisis to act as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Pastor Matthias Prenzler of Shepparton, Vic noted that “Our regular food-share run was a great way of connecting with people during lockdown, and offering them support. This was especially valuable to newcomers, and people who had lost jobs due to COVID.” He reports that many people have become involved in preparing services and ensuring people are cared for across the large parish.

Worship is not just for Sundays. A really interesting development in worshipping during COVID was the realisation by many people that worship is not just a Sunday morning activity. With congregations releasing worship resources that people could watch earlier or later to suit themselves, people started to discover the joy of watching and worshipping on other days of the week.

I became aware of a new phenomenon: “Church bingeing”. Lots of people contacted me to say that they were watching services from all over the LCA, often accessing multiple services per week. One older couple I know expressed great joy at being able to watch a different worship service each day of the week, which helped them grow stronger in their faith and kept them going during lockdown.

It’s been interesting to hear from people how this time of worshipping at home has helped them develop faith practices and a deeper connection to the Word. Margey Knapp from South Australia started creating an A4 sized embroidery quilted piece each week reflecting the Bible readings for the week. Kathy Juers of Springhead, SA set up a mini-altar in her home with a special cross, a symbol for the theme of the day, fresh flowers and candles. She sent out pictures of the altar and a short message of encouragement to her friends. Kathy says, “This was my way of sharing God’s love during COVID”.

Other faith development practices have also been boosted this year. Pastor Matthias ruefully commented, “Bible Studies via Zoom have been much better attended than physical Bible study classes!”

Worship is important and precious. Sometimes we don’t realise how precious something is until we don’t have it anymore. Many people struggled with the loss of regular Holy Communion and realised anew how vital this sacrament is in their lives. What may have seemed routine in the past is now recognised as a great and precious gift of God to his people.

In missing our regular Church worship and ministry areas, we have had to remember anew what really matters to us, and to depend on God in a new and more powerful way. We’ve also had to actively engage in worship. On the Worship Planning Page we offer a Church@Home worship service which intentionally includes interactive elements to encourage people to talk and engage with the Word and each other. Zoom style worship also seems more interactive than your average service. It will be interesting to see how congregations incorporate some of that interactivity into their worship once they return to “normal”.

We are not alone. Pastor Andrew Brook sums up 2020 when he says, “Many people have returned to worship, and for that we give thanks. And new people have started worshipping with us. We thank God that in the middle of this crisis God has been going about his work of speaking hope into people’s hearts through his good news. COVID-19 has caused people to ask questions about where they can find security in a shifting and sometimes scary world, and they’ve turned to God and his people for answers.”

Praise God!

About the Author

Libby Krahling

Libby Krahling is the Administration Coordinator for the Commission on Worship. One of her main responsibilities is running the Worship Planning Page, which provides a wide range of resources for every aspect of service preparation. Libby and her husband, Phil, live in Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley, SA, and worship at St Petri, Nuriootpa. They have two adult sons.

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