“You Are the Church?”
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also
should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love
for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, many things, including church ministry, are changing. New
technologies came to the front line of our life. Our church also started using new technologies such as an FM
transmitter for Drive-In Service at Atlas Park, Zoom Live online Services, Zoom meetings, and Virtual Sunday
School. These are new experiences for the church using these services. Like this, church ministry seems to bring
a new paradigm to rethink “church.” What does the church mean for us?
We know that we are the disciples of Jesus Christ. And, we know that the church mission is “making the
disciples of Jesus Christ all generations (all nations) for the transformation of the world.” Let us think about who
shall perform the mission. Yes, we, the disciples of Jesus Christ, should fulfill the mission. If so, we, the
disciples of Jesus Christ, are the church.
The first thing we think of when we hear the word “church” is the church building because a building is
something we can see and touch. When we say, “going to church,” we usually mean going to the church building
or other physical location where we have worship service. Since we started to have Sunday worship services at
Atlas Park, I am not sure that we thought Atlas Park would be our church. No one thought Atlas Park would be
our church. We might say, “Until we reopen the church safely, we will have Sunday worship services at Atlas
Park.” It implies that the church still means the building. The space is essential for God’s people to gather
together safely. The early Christians needed the space to worship God and have fellowship safe from
persecution. So, they used to assemble in an upper room of someone’s house or in a cave. Now, we are also
looking for safe space from the pandemic.
Finally, we found a new place for Sunday Service. It was Atlas Park. We originally planned for a church
picnic day at Atlas Park for our joint service on May 31st. It was about to be canceled due to the pandemic. But,
we decided on a new experience of an Outdoor Service using an FM transmitter. It is a new experience for us to
have a Sunday worship service sitting in our own parked vehicle. It is a great blessing for us to be able to use a
big area of Atlas Park for Sunday services. Everything has gone smoothly so far. We are able to enjoy the
beautiful nature God made and join worship services weekly as if we are going on a picnic every Sunday. We
experience God’s amazing grace at Atlas Park. Furthermore, we enjoy meeting God’s people in person, even
though we are wearing masks and keeping social distancing. We experience a church as “a gathering of God’s
people” through “Drive-in services (outdoor services).”
Last week, Grantsburg-Central UMC reopened the church building. It took four months to reopen the
church due to the pandemic. It was a small gathering last week, but there was a great impression. Everyone was
happy to be back to the sanctuary. Until reopening the church building, it took many members’ efforts and
dedication of love. Before reopening the church building, the Administrative Council members had a special
meeting on July 7th. At the meeting, they considered the church family first, who were not be able to join in the
Drive-In Services or Facebook virtual Services (or Zoom services).
Most of them could join either one. But, as the representative of the church members, they considered others first. Some of them said, “Actually, I would prefer to join the outdoor Service, which is the Drive-In Service at Atlas Park because it is safer than Indoor Services in the church. However, thinking of others who could not join there, we may need to reopen the church.” Finally, they decided to reopen the church and created a “task force team.” They made a list of what they had to prepare in accordance to the reference of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church and Church Mutual (a church’s insurance company). Their efforts and dedication are from God’s love and the love of neighbors (church family). Through their commitment, we may find the meaning of church. The church does mean not only the building, but also the people who love God and love their neighbors. We could experience a church through the love of God’s people.
Jesus gave a new commandment to his disciples that love one another. He says, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” The people who love one another in Jesus Christ would be the disciples of Jesus. The gathering of the disciples is the church. The disciples have one thing in common, to believe in Jesus Christ and trust him alone salvation. In addition, they love one another as Jesus loved us. If you do so, you are the church.
Pastor Jenny Lee