The childhood memory of going to a summer drive-in movie with neighbors produces an ear-to-ear grin on my face. The moms sat in lawn chairs and shelled butterbeans. The kids fished icy bottles of orange or grape sodas from a cooler to wash down salty, butter-laden popcorn.
I don’t recall the title of the show, but I remember the excitement of gathering with neighbors at the drive-in theater.
Fast forward several years to last month…
“Hurry please, so we can sit–I mean park–on the front row,” I said to my husband as we visited a local church’s drive-in service. We stayed in the car (social distancing, you know) and listened to praise music and the sermon via an FM radio station. Voices soared from car interiors as we held cell phones and followed song lyrics posted on the church website.
When drivers started their engines after the final prayer, joy bounced from one car to another like rays of sunshine as we waved to strangers and listened to music. Warm smiles from parking lot attendants spoke the final “Amen.”
At drive-in church, coordinated outfits and the familiarity of our normal seat mattered not. Gathering with the family of God did. The Bible addresses fellowship.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25
Current mandates prohibit congregating physically, but many of us can gather in cyberspace, and we can certainly encourage each other in a variety of ways.
Isn’t connection via technology a blessing during these shelter-in-place days? Last week we joined our Sunday School courtesy of Zoom technology and participated in our church’s live-streamed time of worship. I’ve enjoyed Bible lessons, pretty memes, encouraging posts on social media networks, and e-cards.
How has technology enhanced your isolation days?
As we enjoy “gathering” on devices, my heart hurts for those who cannot join us due to a lack of computer access or the inability to use it. My ninety-six-year-old mother-in-law, a godly saint, doesn’t own a computer and can barely use the telephone due to neuropathy in her fingers and failing vision. Do you know others like her?
Fear creeps through healthcare home hallways and stalks elderly residents who can’t go out or entertain guests. Some fail to understand why family members and friends don’t visit.
A video of a friend and her sister greeting their mom through a large window of the assisted living facility thrilled my heart. After checking with the staff via phone, they yelled messages to their mom and held up corresponding signs. What joy their creativity sparked!
For some, human interaction and gathering are severely limited or non-existent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does God’s Word address this dilemma and offer guidance? Consider these verses:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Philippians 2:3-4
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.Romans 15:1-2
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
Maybe we need some old-fashioned ways to connect or “gather” from a distance without technology. How about these?
- Wave enthusiastically to those we pass.
- Call those who cannot text or receive emails.
- Send cards and letters to those who can’t communicate electronically. Tuck Bible verses or homemade bookmarks into the envelopes. Call to chat and discuss the verses once the mail has arrived. End in prayer or sing a hymn.
- Post encouraging Bible verses on signs in the yard or hold printed messages up to windows.
- Add family and pet photos to care packages. Chat about the photos over the phone.
- Order a meal to be delivered and include dessert if diet allows. Plan to talk over coffee and dessert and pray together.
- Start a magazine subscription for someone who can’t access the issues online. Call after each issue arrives to discuss a favorite article or photo.
Do you think these ideas would soothe lonely hearts and include folks who aren’t tech-savvy into Christian fellowship? Initiating conversation requires little. I always say, “A teaspoon of effort yields a cup of joy.”
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:24
Won’t you please share examples of reaching beyond technology to “gather from a distance?” I look forward to your ideas or observations.
Bible verses are from the ESV.