Exodus 35:21–36:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9–21; 2 Kings 12:4–16 (read online ⧉)
When things return to normal, well, they probably won’t return to the past normal. In fact, who knows what the new normal will look like. Will places such as churches have to remodel to meet the new “physical separation” expectation? Really. While we may return to the building this year, there will likely be an extended expectation of physical separation. There are some people who already have a 6-foot bubble of separation (or larger) and are looking forward to everyone being like them (truly).
The rest of us will also need to adapt. Grocery stores that currently have aisles designed (on purpose) to keep as much of the product in your eyesight as possible may have a cultural impetus to remodel. How this will affect tight spaces such as the arena in Everett (where one gets to watch hockey, for example) or the baseball fields or the football fields, or the gyms of schools, and so on. All these spaces originally designed to fit the maximum number of people in the smallest amount of space may very well find themselves having to change their maximized seating to fit the new reality (our knees will be grateful).
The church will have to adapt, too. Not just Generations, but the whole concept of church, too. The facility we have, for example, was going to start to get some major work done. Some of it has moved forward. Most of it (obviously) stopped. Now what? Do we remove every other pew? Do we hand 6-foot rulers? Does it matter anymore?
Here’s the harsh reality, the churches will likely be empty for a long time. It isn’t that everyone got used to meeting online (though it will that for some). It won’t be because people got used to having a mostly free Sunday (though that will be the case for some). It will because people will have become trained through fear (back to that, again) to avoid public places and tight gatherings. The culture may well have trained many of our people to stay away.
There is no doubt that renewal and remodeling often revitalize and grow a church. People are attracted (understandably) to something that is obviously growing (why numbers are often more important than spiritual growth). When the building is changed to reduce the number of people who can participate at a time, rather than increase, what then?
Now, the church is not a/the building. However, a sense of place creates a sense of identity. The Israelites gave large amounts until it was no longer needed. In Exodus, it almost seems, “Stop! No more! We have no place to put it!” The Israelites laid claim to “their” temple. Yes, it was God’s. It was also core to their identity.
Like many of us, we don’t recognize how a physical building becomes part of who we are. It may actually explain why people connect to certain places (including church buildings) and not others. What also is of concern is what happens to spaces when they are changed (for no matter the reason), and how people will respond.
Space deeply affects our worship and fellowship, too. How people fill a space affects behaviors and responses, too. All of the outpouring of support to our churches would be great, and the plans that are made will be the best we are able. In the end, it is the people…it is you…that will make the difference in the new church in the new space…that was the old church in the old space. Be ready!
God, you have gifted us the ability to not fear in the face of such uncertainty. Strengthen our faith and resolve to face the world as it is and to present your love and grace to the world. Amen.
1) When you imagine the “perfect” church space, what is it like?
2) Before all of this, did you sit in the middle, the back, or even (dare we say) the front of a church? Do you think where you sit and with whom you might sit (other than your immediate family) might change?
3) How does a church building shape you? If you think it doesn’t, go back to question 1.