Throughout the final months of 2020 and the start of 2021, Coronavirus has disrupted every aspect of people’s daily lives and has isolated many with needed quarantine. One place particularly affected by the pandemic is the church. Churches and other places of worship across the world hold significant importance for many people and provide a sanctuary for the spirit. In the U.S., churches have been effectively shut down since the beginning of Coronavirus and indoor worship is restricted in most U.S. states. In some states, such as California, indoor worship has been completely banned until very recently, when some restrictions were lifted in certain areas of the state.
I, personally, have been attending church throughout my entire life, and services hold a special meaning for me. Growing up in a Christian household, I went to church almost every week for Sunday sermon and occasionally Friday Bible. Me and my family are members of a Korean-American congregation in Torrance, Cornerstone Church, a name which signifies its central importance in my life, as it allows me to connect with God and other members of my Christian community, on a weekly basis. When the pandemic forced churches to shut down, Cornerstone shifted to an online worship format on Zoom and YouTube livestream. Through these platforms, church members were still able to continue our worship, but it does not feel the same as in-person services. The usual lively and spirited environment of church was lacking due to the fact that all of the members were separated by screens. Add to this the technical issues that invariably come with large online gatherings, and the physical distance isolating us becomes more profound. Traditional church practices which promote community and fellowship, such as Vacation Bible School, Christmas concerts, and spiritual retreats, were cancelled in 2020 for the first time in our church’s history. Although valiant efforts were made to replace these highly anticipated events, there is no substitute for gathering the congregation, allowing us to stand side by side and lift our hands in communal praise.
At first it seemed as if the cancellation of in-person services would be severely detrimental to California’s religious communities, yet many positive benefits have resulted from this shift to online worship. I asked my church group leader, Chris Yoo, if there were any unexpected benefits that resulted from the shift to online services. He thought hard about this for a while, but found many silver linings to the congregation’s current restrictions. “I would say, more than a benefit, I believe it has given the body a greater appreciation for in-person and congregational worship. It is a reminder of the fact that God has created us to be relational and to desire fellowshipping in person. And I believe it will allow us to appreciate in-person worship a lot more when that day comes.” This viewpoint is shared among many fellow members of Cornerstone Church, who are thankful for the opportunity to worship online and are looking forward to worshiping in-person in the near future.