We took a kitchen inventory—what Will*, our house family dad, had in his spacious house kitchen, what lingered in the end-of-summer garden, and what I had in the “Shire,” the nickname for our temporary living quarters, which is also our friends’ travel trailer. As the primary cooks for our two families, we gathered all of our supplies to determine what we would set before everyone for dinner—spinach, onions, peppers, mixed greens, tomatoes, softened avocados, tortilla wraps, cilantro, beets, a few ripe lemons, and leftover grilled chicken. Would we dine on a chef salad, wraps, or tacos? Perhaps all three.
It was a joyful evening of creating our respective plates, sharing jokes of the day–puns were flying, hearing what the kids had studied in their Zoom classrooms, parenting insights, what earrings and necklaces sold in my shop, how Will’s wife, Jean’s*, day unfolded teaching her 11th grade English students, the adorable utterings of their four-year-old son, and how God was moving. We even took the time to pray for one another. We were doing it. We were Being the Church. We were engaged in each other’s lives in Christ-centered communion.
This is what my husband has preached for some years. “Be” the Church–live out our faith far beyond merely “going” to church. New Testament living as recorded in 1 Timothy gives us a picture of what the Church can be. In open transparency, we share the good, the bad, and the ugly knowing each one of us has been fully accepted by Christ. It’s a judgment-free atmosphere. We are loved.
A byproduct of the frustrating COVID-induced restrictions has been families stepping into each other’s lives in a deeper dimension. Most forms of typical American entertainment have been closed due to possible contamination. We stay closer to home and avoid typical go-to entertainment such as malls, theaters, and venues of mass-congregation. As a result of these usual distractions being put on hold and the uncertainty of the times, we have been compelled to draw our loved ones even closer. We reach out to closed-in or vulnerable neighbors. We pick up extra supplies as we venture forth into stores.
We cry with those who were diagnosed and vent with those laid off. We make long-needed phone calls to family and estranged friends. It has become a gathering in of relationships and an evaluation of what is truly important.
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV) says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” As a body. This is Body ministry. Our church has been meeting outdoors in a tent with social distancing measures in place, with masks and limited attendees for each service. Services have also been broadcast online. In this isolation process, we have come into a much deeper understanding of what constitutes Church. My attention has been brought to the persecuted church in a number of countries where believers cannot meet in person. What constitutes Church for them? How do we step out of the four walls and comfy pews that have often defined Church in America and reach into our communities? How do we gather in the lost and broken and be a community who loves freely without judgment in the name of Christ?
COVID has spurred us to make our pondering a reality. We reach out. We take 1 Timothy to heart—bring food to one another, share all we have. We read Scripture, lay aside dissension in a political year, and share resources as needs arise. We fight the good fight in true community. We gather in and together taste to see that the Lord is good.
* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used with her kind permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Mary has cherished life-long literary dreams coupled with a passion for ministry, all of which lead her to study English literature and later theology and counseling in seminary. She has been designing artisan jewelry for eight years while homeschooling son Ian and daughter Julianna. She and her husband Mark Miller have been in ministry for the past thirteen years in San Diego and temporarily moved to Washington with their cat Lord Peter Wimsey while Mark finalized his dissertation. Dr. Miller is now pursuing ministerial opportunities nation-wide. Mary enjoys off-the-wall humor, gardening, cooking, and curling up with anything penned by Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Jane Austen.