Church beyond the screen

Church beyond the screen

When the pandemic first arrived, technology allowed us to move online fairly easily. We began working from home, we had church on Zoom, we Facebook live-d ourselves and used social media to connect. But after three weeks, it’s becoming clear that we are suffering screen fatigue.

Not only are we tired of screens, but during the week when we retell the central story of our faith, the last meal and last breath of our Savior, screens feel so distant. How do we wash one another’s feet through a screen? How do we break bread together through a screen? How do we darken the sanctuary or drive nails into a cross through a screen? How do we gather as Easter people through a screen?

There are many ways churches have been getting creative with their Holy Week gatherings – that’s part of the privilege of my work is seeing the incredible creative solutions ministers have devised. So knowing our students were already in front of a screen for class, movie night, student teaching, Bible study, and a hundred other things, I was interested in how we could be the church outside together.

For Palm Sunday, we decided to return to an old ritual, the Stations of the Cross. Typically, these stations would be fixed around a sanctuary or garden and marked by pieces of art so that pilgrims could travel between each station on foot. But since we are not all in the same city anymore, we had to be creative about walking the stations.

I sent everyone a guide which contained an art piece, scripture, artist’s reflection, and prayer for each station, created by A Sanctified Art. The booklets were printed on my home printer and bound with a book-binding kit one of the students gave me for Christmas, then mailed across Texas. I also included a list of single-word prompts for the stations, asking them to walk until they found something that reminded them of that word, take a picture, and then engage the station in the guide.

Each of us walked the stations differently. Some went out to the park, some around the block, and some in their own apartment. We brought our individual experiences together that Sunday evening when we reflected on the experience and the story in place of the sermon and scripture. Then after our conversation, we shared prayers and communion, sang a hymn, and closed with the benediction. It was not last year’s Jesus Christ Superstar service or the staged Passion play I had originally envisioned, but it was good and it was holy. May your Holy Week be as well.