At the time of this writing, we are fourteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you lost a loved one to the virus, had to balance online school for your kids while working from home, or had to cancel vacations or trips to see family, everyone has lost something during the last year. Even churches who did not lose any parishioners to the virus will regather missing those who have stepped into eternity since you were last together. As churches take steps towards safely regathering in-person, we have an opportunity to minister and care for the trauma we have all experienced. In the Hebrew Bible, people placed memorial stones to mark important places and moments in their faith journeys. Inspired by this practice, I wanted to make sure our congregation marked our re-entrance into the nave after almost one year.
While this liturgy was designed to support our regathering after a year of online worship during the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be adapted for use after a renovation, hurricane, or other natural disaster.
A Liturgy for Regathering
I adapted this liturgy from prayers and services in The Book of Common Prayer and The Book of Occasional Services. Instead of beginning with bell ringing and the procession, we began with the liturgy and prayers on the first page. We began the service in the rear of the nave, though one could certainly start the service outside and then process in as a congregation. Involving the senior or junior warden demonstrates the partnership between clergy and lay leaders to get through this crisis.
Following the liturgy, we rang our church bells for one minute and then processed in singing “The Church’s One Foundation.” We also used the Litany of Thanksgiving for a Church as the Prayers of the People. This first service back in our historic building was very special.
Feel free to be creative and adapt the liturgy in any way that works for your community. After the last fourteen months, may the time come soon when our buildings are filled with the sounds of common prayer and songs of praise as we lift our hearts to the one who carried us through this storm.
Click here to download “Liturgy For Re-entering the Sanctuary” as an editable Word document.