The other morning, my 3-year-old daughter was staring intently at her play piano with attached songbook. When asked what she was doing, she said, “I’m getting my service ready on my ‘puter. It’s a lot of work. We can watch it later. On church day.”
Children mimic what they see. In this case, my daughter has been watching me “get service ready on my ‘puter” for weeks now. She’s also apparently heard me complaining that it’s a lot of work. (She’s not wrong).
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I broadcast our online worship Live on Facebook. Just me and an iPad in the sanctuary, while our church family (and my own family) worshipped from home in real time. This summer, however, I’ve taken to pre-recording worship, in order to accommodate visuals for the summer sermon series and to include videos of our music team leading hymns and anthems. This change has meant I’ve learned several new things: how to write and preach a sermon all on Thursday (I’m a chronic Saturday-night-sermon-writer); how to use video editing software (they didn’t teach us that in Seminary); and how to worship at home with my family.
Actually, it wasn’t just worshipping at home with my family, but simply worshipping with my family at all. My husband and two kids have always worshipped together, while I’ve led worship. I don’t see much of my family on Sundays, as our holy day is also our busiest day. For the first 3 months of the pandemic, this schedule didn’t change much. I went over to the church very early to prepare for worship, led Facebook worship, then zoom fellowship hour, and then zoom meetings. For me, my Sunday schedule was similar to what it always has been (except for that big difference of being with real live people).
When I moved to pre-recording, it felt like a big opportunity: my family and I could worship together, just like everyone else. I could be worshipper and not worship leader (excluding the very weird fact, that I was watching myself as worship leader).
So, we set up at the dining room table as our at-home worship space – all gathering around the laptop. We had all just sat down, when my daughter exclaimed: “Oopsie daisy! It’s church day and I did not put on my church shoes!” Travesty of all travesties for Miss 3-year-old Fashionista. So just as the chimes were ringing on the worship video, we had a great all family search for the must-have church shoes.
Shoes finally found, we settled in again, as I frantically checked the video: was it broadcasting okay? Who had joined the feed? Who is posting prayer requests?
I took a breath and pulled my 8-month-old son onto my lap. As we watched, my son kept looking back at me with the strangest look and then back to the computer screen and then back to me. Then … he wailed. That’s when I realized his confusion: how could Mommy be in the ‘puter and holding him all at the same time? I’m assuming one of me is more than enough. I stood up to rock him – all the while watching the comment feed again.
We tried to settle in a 3rd time. And so it went for the next hour. My husband and I tried to prepare our hearts and minds for worship. Our children tried to prepare us for the end of days. There was crying. There was whining. There was yelling. There was poopy diapers (plural). There were trips to the potty. There was spitting. There was water-spilling. There was hair pulling. There was banging. There were time outs.
There was utter frustration.
At one point, I lost it. “How am I supposed to worship like this! This is madness!” To which my dear husband said, “what do you think I’ve been doing for the past 20 weeks? I can’t ever worship. Welcome to Sunday morning at the Jaremko house.” I had barely made it through one week; he had done 19.
This has been hard no matter our circumstance. We’re all in the same storm; we’re just in different boats. Worship from home looks different for each household. For some, online worship might be peaceful but isolating. For others, it might be madness but togetherness. Worshipping apart from our beloved church family is sad and hard and lovely and exciting, all at the same time. It might be hard, but it’s keeping us safe. It might be hard, but we’re doing it together. It might be hard, but we’re learning new things.
I’m grateful to have experienced Sunday morning with my family – especially what my husband has been through to make it all happen. I’m also grateful that I stuck it out with them (and didn’t go lock myself in a room, which I contemplated doing). For during the Prayers of the People (near the end of the service), my daughter climbed into my lap. She looked up at me and said, “Mommy, we’re praying.” She clasped her hands and closed her eyes. I wrapped my arms around her and clasped my hands over hers.
As we prayed, the words of the Indigo Girls song, You and Me of the 10,000 Wars, floated into my head:
“After the battle and we’re still around
Everything once up in the air has settled down
Sweep the ashes, let the silence find us
A moment of peace is worth every war behind us” (Sailers, Emily, 1990 “You And Me Of the 10,000 Wars. Recorded by Indigo Girls. On Nomads Indians Saints. Epic Records).