By Rev. Pete Hyde
It was just before dusk when we headed out the door for a quick walk to get a little exercise and get out of the house. I worked in the yard all afternoon, so the walk was not as brisk as it should have been. Highway 30A was eerily quiet. The beaches are closed. Most businesses have elected to close. The few restaurants that are open are doing carryout only. Minutes would go by without a car passing us as we walked the lonely bike path. Only the occasional remaining group of spring breakers on golf carts or bicycles went by, oblivious to the need for them to go home. The evening air was filled with songs of birds saying their good nights and calling their families to roost for the evening. All would be quiet before too long.
My thoughts wandered to morning worship. It was a little different. The sanctuary was empty except for those responsible for leading worship. We had no idea how many people were “out there” watching us on Livestream. There was no way to know whether we “connected” with them. Adjustments had to be made to fit the new format. Methods had to be changed, but the message would be the same. With a little nervousness we started the service. As we moved through the music, I felt the Spirit move also. Even though the vacant room starred back us, we could picture each face (because we know where everyone sits, LOL), and hear each voice. Though we weren’t in physical proximity we felt the presence of the congregation through the work of the Spirit. Though we were divided by space, we were together, unified by the Spirit.
I thought about the thousands of churches across the country and around the world that had to “worship” in the same way. Maybe this was good for the Kingdom in one way. There was no dividing up and heading to our respective buildings with our respective labels and styles. We all gathered with our families, whoever they might be, and intergenerationally worshiped. No sending the kids and teenagers to “their” worship and us doing “our” worship. We gathered as they did in first century churches, without labels and divisions and worshipped God through the indwelling of the Spirit with our families.
The whip-o-rill begins its lonely call and the great horned owl in the woods behind the house beckons the arrival of night. The eerie quiet settles in a little more deeply. Yes, it has been a Sabbath day and it has ended in the quiet serenity of God’s Spirit. During these trying times, please take the opportunity to spend time in God’s presence. Our busy lives have been forced to slow down. Slow down. Be with God. “Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28: 6-9) Let this be our prayer today and this week.
Rev. J. Pete Hyde, Senior Pastor
Santa Rosa Beach Community Church