Outdoor Church Services — How the Covid Situation Has Drawn Me Closer to God
The Coronavirus has made the year 2020 a year we will never forget. Our schools shut down. Many businesses closed. And even our church services had to go online. Fortunately, the warmth of summer allowed us to again worship together — outside — and the change has been positively amazing.
My wife and I attend a nondenominational church in upstate New York. Our building is only 20 years old, and prior to the quarantine, we gathered in our sanctuary to sing songs of praise, to hear the Word of God, and to enjoy fellowship with other believers. I have always felt at peace there as I looked at the cross up front, the stained glass surrounding the cross, and the banners on both sides, banners which express Biblical truths.
When our Sunday services went online, I still enjoyed the singing and the message, but I missed actually seeing our friends and our neighbors, and the small-screen display failed to capture the cross, the stained glass, and the banners. Fortunately, when we moved our services to the front lawn of our building, we experienced worship in three new ways, ways that have allowed us to draw even closer to our Creator.
First, as I sit outside and look at the front of our church, I am amazed by its beauty. Normally, we drive by the front of the building every Sunday to park on the side and to enter there as well. Thus, I never spent much time looking at the beautiful stonework on the exterior. Now, I look at that stonework each Sunday, and I have begun to really appreciate for the first time the God-given talent and craftsmanship that our builders shared with us when they erected our church two decades ago.
Next, as I sit outside, I also recognize and enjoy the changing beauty of the weather. Some days, we roasted a bit in the morning sun, or we sought the shade of a few nearby trees. On other days, we basked in the soft breezes that caressed our faces as we prayed and sang. And on one Sunday or two this summer, we huddled under tents or umbrellas as the soft rains dropped tender mercies upon us. The variability of the weather each week definitely reminded me that though our lives may change from one week to the next, the beauty of God’s creation, like His love for us, surrounds us always.
Finally, I have begun to experience an intimacy with God that may be impossible to achieve when surrounded by four walls and a roof over our heads. Indoors, we may become too comfortable, too safely ensconced in a man-made structure that is always dry and warm and cozy. Outdoors, however, I am free to look heavenward to the contrasting blue skies and white clouds and to imagine our Creator looking down upon us as we sing His praises: “You’re a good, good Father.”
So as our Covid summer comes to an end, the chill of autumn gives us two choices: either return to our online services or worship again in the sanctuary but with masks and social distancing. Hopefully by the summer of 2021, we will be free to worship again indoors without masks and without social distancing. Yet, personally I wonder if maybe we should worship outside every summer. There, in that outdoor setting, we may recognize more fully the beauty of the talents that God has given us, the wonders of nature that God has created for us, and the intimate love that our God and Father has for us all.