The return of classic worship…online!

The return of classic worship…online!

One of the things I try to teach my young colleagues is the importance of being nimble in ministry. When cultural shifts occur, too often the church is scrambling to keep up, much less get ahead of those changes. The gospel message is timeless but you MUST remain light on your feet in order to deliver that timeless message effectively in an ever-changing, often tumultuous, culture.

Never, ever in my ministry has this principle been tested more than it has over the last six weeks. Never! The sudden and cataclysmic changes thrust upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced every church around the world to scramble. What happens when your primary delivery methods are suddenly gone? What do you do when an organization that is focused on and centered in a regular gathering of its people…can no longer gather? 

It has been an enormous challenge. And may I say, Chapel Hill has risen to that challenge magnificently. It didn’t hurt that more than a year ago, Pastor Ellis and his team began to urge the session to upgrade our technology: sound, lights, and cameras. It didn’t hurt that all of that equipment had already been ordered and installed prior to the Corona lockdown. I am so grateful for forward-thinking staff leaders…and for a Session that said, “Yes! Let’s do that!” …even when we had no idea how strategic those decisions would end up being, particularly related to our worship services.

But having the right equipment was only part of this turning-on-a-dime moment. We also needed the right staff and volunteers who were able to shift suddenly from in-house gatherings to virtual gatherings. And I think you’d agree with me, they have done marvelously! Of course, it’s not the same, sitting in your living room to “go to church.” But I thank GOD for the internet and our ability to stay connected worship-wise even at a time when we are still locked down.

There is a lot that has been going really well. But when we perceived that we would likely continue to worship virtually for a while, Pastor Ellis and his team realized we had one big hole: traditional, or classic worship. Those who prefer a 9:00 am type of worship have been great sports, joining in with a style that is not quite their cup of tea. But we knew there was a longing for the hymns and organ and liturgy that reflected their worship hearts.

I’m excited to tell you that this weekend, we are filling that hole! At 9:00 am on our YouTube channel and on our Facebook page, we will premiere our first classic Chapel Hill worship service. It will feature traditional music and service elements along with the same message as our 10:00 am modern service. 

We are very eager to worship together in person once again, but we are not willing to do so in a way that leaves wide swaths of our congregation behind. Chapel Hill’s leadership plans to follow social distancing guidelines from our state and federal authorities as well as healthcare professionals in order to determine when and how we should begin to re-open our campus to ensure everyone’s safety. When we are all able to congregate together, we will do so. Until then, we will do everything we can to make sure that our virtual church experience keeps the people of Chapel Hill deeply connected to each other, and more importantly, to the Lord. 

In the meantime, I hope that those of you who prefer a more classic style of music will be blessed by this offering. And I REALLY hope you’ll reach out to your worship leaders and say “Thank you” for their efforts…and for how NIMBLE they continue to be!

Pastor Mark