New York Times op-ed: Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year)):
Over the past two years a refrain has become common in churches and other religious communities: “Join us in person or online.” I was a big proponent of that “or online” part. In March of 2020, we knew little about the new disease spreading rapidly around the world but we knew it was deadly, especially for the elderly. My church was one of the first in our city to forgo meeting in person and switch to an online format, and I encouraged other churches to do the same.
Since then Sunday mornings have varied. Our church met online; then met indoors with limited attendance, masks and social distancing; then met outdoors; then, after vaccines, indoors again. Precautions rose and fell according to our city’s threat level. But even as most churches now offer in-person services, the “or online” option has remained. I think this is good, given how unusual the past two years have been.
Now I think it’s time to drop the virtual option. And I think this for the same reason I believed churches should go online back in March 2020: This is the way to love God and our neighbors.
For all of us — even those who aren’t churchgoers — bodies, with all the risk, danger, limits, mortality and vulnerability that they bring, are part of our deepest humanity, not obstacles to be transcended through digitization. They are humble (and humbling) gifts to be embraced. Online church, while it was necessary for a season, diminishes worship and us as people. We seek to worship wholly — with heart, soul, mind and strength — and embodiment is an irreducible part of that wholeness. ...
A chief thing that the church has to offer the world now is to remind us all how to be human creatures, with all the embodiment and physical limits that implies. We need to embrace that countercultural call.
Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren: