Meet Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill
Like every parish (and every person for that matter), when the pandemic struck in full force back in March 2020, one of the prevailing emotions at Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill, was fear—fear of this unknown contagion and fear of whether we could adapt our lives to meet these new stringent health and safety requirements. That fear also included a concern for whether what we did, and had always done, would survive the transition to the completely virtual realm. Could we still be who we were without our weekly gathering of song and sacrament? What about our many meetings, activities and programs that took place each week? Given how drastic the changes we were being asked to make were, our worry was warranted but ultimately unnecessary. God can and did find a way to keep us connected through this past year, as God has done for God’s people through plagues, exiles, wilderness wanderings and persecutions past.
We chose for this pandemic year the theme of “Love Dwells Here,” working from the Johannine sense of God’s loving presence dwelling with us for all time and playing on the idea that “here” could and needed to mean a lot of different things at present. But wherever “here” may have been, we were surprised by just how much of the Spirit of Love that we aspire to in our worship translated through our livestream services. It took us a little while to get fully up to speed on how best to capture all aspects of a typical liturgy: the readings, the music, the sermons, the Eucharist. But time and again we would hear from people that, against all odds, it worked. They felt the presence of the Holy in their homes and hearts.
Slowly but surely our choirs found ways to make music together, we found ways to deliver the Sacrament “to-go," and we even embraced our new technological tools to enrich our worship with some cinematic qualities, which was especially helpful in trying to capture the drama of Holy Week and other important services. This Spirit of innovation and exploration extended beyond worship into our formation offerings and small groups. We were surprised, time and again, at the level of connection and conversation that was possible over Zoom. Whether it was a weekly Bible study, a seasonal book group or even a virtual mission “trip” to Ecuador, the Spirit was at work—so much so that as a parish we noticed a proliferation of small group ministries. Many of them were lay-led, as parishioners had to take even more ownership over their lives of faith, since they could not depend on the regular routines to keep them involved. The same proved true for our strong contingents of college students, youth and children, all of whom met the challenge of the year with grace and flexibility.
As we begin to re-member our particular part of the Body of Christ, look forward to welcoming more people back into our church buildings and progressively repopulate our worship services, we hope to bring with us that sense of trust and power of the Spirit to keep us together through any and all adversity so we can live even more faithfully into to the fullness of life to which we are called as followers of Jesus.
Tags: Meet the Church