How lovely is your sanctuary,
our sanctuary, O God.
My soul longs for the pews or chairs
for the clear windows to the world around
or glass in sparkling color
that tells the sweet old stories.
My heart and my voice crack with tears
because I miss the music of a choir,
even an imperfect organist,
and, yes, even my own tune-in-a-bucket voice
singing concealed by a crowd —
for I am not going to open my mouth
and embarrass myself on Zoom
making a joyful noise to the living God.
Even the smallest children find
a second and holy home,
even babies brought in arms for baptism,
pets brought to Blessing the Animals,
guests who sit in the back pew
because maybe, just maybe,
they want a wedding here someday,
guests who sit at the homeless meal —
which is every bit as much
a nest at your altar.
Happy are those who worship in your home,
and don’t want to see the inside of mine.
Happy are those who meet to plan mission
in the basements of a blessed place,
easily able to see who wants to talk
because hearts show in the eyes.
And happy are those who share
a common room
of prayer shawls and conversation
rather than crafting tenderness
with crochet hooks
while binge-watching television.
And they go from strength to strength
who drink coffee and eat cake
at coffee hour,
or just drink lots and lots and lots of coffee
at AA, NA, GamAnon meetings.
God, hear my whining prayer;
give ear, O God of the wilderness
who at least gave a design
for a beautiful traveling tent.
Accept my sadness,
missing the place of memories and love.
For I know that worship online,
and meetings, too
are precious in your sight,
and I would rather be a distance-keeper
in the virtual house of God,
than re-open too soon and risk the health
of even one of God’s children.
I know that God bestows a blessing
on livestream and facetime
honor on Youtube and Zoom.
No good thing does God withhold
from those who worship digitally.
But, God of the temple in our hearts,
we trust you with our lament,
our discontent, our loss … and our longing
to be glad when we hear them say —
Let us go to the house of God!
Thanks to Rev. Sandy Boyce of Pilgrim Uniting Church, Adelaide, South Australia who invited me to write a lament for a parishioner who was participating in virtual worship but deeply missing the church building with its memories and companionship … as well as feeling odd having the whole congregation viewing their home. I think a lot of us feel this way and so it seemed like turning Psalm 84’s celebration inside out was calling to me.
This is my home church Second Christian Congregational UCC in Kittery, Maine — maybe you would like to post a picture of your church in the comments.