Unconventional Sundays: Worship in a Time of Social Distancing
Posted on Tuesday, April 14
To me, from a religious perspective, it has been a fascinating month from mid-March to mid-April. On the 4th and 5th of April, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gathered in their homes to watch LDS General Conference while supporting worldwide social distancing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many missionaries have returned to their home countries, all temples have been temporarily closed, and members have been worshiping at home with their families or roommates on Sundays. It was, indeed, a highly memorable and special General Conference weekend. President Nelson, leader of the church, asked us to fast specifically for relief from COVID-19 the week before Conference. During General Conference, he asked us to fast again on Good Friday, and to think of what would constitute a sacrifice on our part as we pondered the Savior, Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us to be able to return to God's presence and be reunited with our families after we die.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I joined in the world-wide fasting to pray for relief from the corona virus pandemic and offer thanks to God for the blessing of Jesus Christ’s Atonement for our sins. I abstained from two meals, and also chose to go on a social media “fast” or hiatus for the week. I enjoyed worshiping from home with my family for Easter Sunday.
The collage above shows some moments over the past month of worshipping at home with my family. I attend a young single adult congregation, separate from my other family members who attend a regular family ward (it is the same church, just a different congregation; congregations are called "wards"). I have most enjoyed spending time with my family as we take turns preparing short lessons to share, watch gospel-related video clips and talks produced by the church, and have more in-depth discussions in this intimate setting about our beliefs and perspectives. This is also called "sharing our testimonies" with each other, and I dearly enjoy listening to my family discuss the Gospel together.
Two young men and two young women from the congregation I attend, called "ministers" (or "ministering brothers and sisters"--we used to be called "home teachers" and "visiting teachers" respectively), are assigned to connect with me each month and see how I'm doing. I also have an assigned ministering companion and participate in ministering in my ward. My ministering brothers came to administer the sacrament in my family's home in March. The two young men you see dressed up in the collage (looking rather like missionaries here) are my current "ministering brothers," John and Joshua.
You can also see my brother-in-law bringing out a tray of cups filled with water, and a plate with bread to be broken (along with a gluten-free cracker for my gluten-intolerant brother-in-law). This is what we have been using for the sacrament service in our home. The bread is used to represent Christ's body, and the water is used to represent His blood, which He allowed to be sacrificed for us. After the week that my ministering brothers came, the rest of my family received authorization from their congregation leader, called a bishop, for the priesthood holders in our home (the men) to pray over and pass the sacrament each Sunday. You can see my mom, dad, sister, and my brother-in-law's younger brother featured in the first picture there as well.
Following the collage, you can also see my cat, Juan Pónce de León, stretched out in front of my family's TV during General Conference (with Dallan H. Oaks on the screen); a picture of the sacrament we’ve been authorized to take in our homes under the direction of priesthood authority; the paper and virtual scriptures from which we study (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the New Testament, and the Old Testament); my brother-in-law and me playing hymn duets on our cellos for our family on Easter Sunday; a box of Crumbl Cookies some lovely anonymous friend sent to cheer me up last week; and the velvety white blossoms that have bloomed on my family's cherry tree.
The picture in the middle shows my eclectic “home office,” where I have been working during this time of social distancing. My mother pointed out to me over the weekend how much she likes this corner of my room in particular, and I wanted to share.
There have been many times where I have felt God’s love for me, and that He cares about all the quirky little things that are important to me, even when I mistakenly think these must be trivial issues or interests to Him. During this time, many are mourning delayed or lost opportunities, economic challenges, and uncertainty. Know that He sees all these things, even the smallest of your worries and concerns, and that He cares so deeply for you.
Whatever your faith background, or if you follow no faith at all, may you keep healthy. For those who are ill, I wish you a successful recovery. For those who have lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you. For medical workers, thank you for being on the front lines. And for business and others who have found creative ways to come together for the success of fighting the virus and strengthening the community, thank you for your efforts, compassion, and inspiration. Whatever your circumstances, you are needed, and you are loved.