Reading the news in the past few weeks, it can feel like we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death. As the coronavirus sweeps through the world, bringing tens of thousands to their deaths, it’s bringing death to the parts of our lives that we take for granted. Family, friends, leisure, business, employment, and more.
The market isn’t the only thing that the pandemic has closed. Arguably the most important part of society, our religious institutions, are indefinitely closed to the public.
While some scholars claim that the world is in a post-Christian age, church still remains the central part of the community across most of America. Church is able to bring more people together than the town hall and other public institutions. For many Christians, it provides a rare chance to worship and relax in the presence of God and escape from life’s constant barrage of stress and uncertainty.
When all the churches in town close to the public and officials recommend self-isolation, the sense of community seems to be diminished virtually everywhere. Should church be confined to a mere building of worship? Or is it, and should it, be something grander in these times of strife?
The word “church” has its roots in the Germanic “Kirche,” translated from “kuriakon” in Greek, which means “belonging to a lord.” (This is usually the lord of a house; “kuriakon doma” translates to the “House of the Lord.”) However, the Greek noun “ekklēsia” was common in the Greek New Testament, and those translating the New Testament from Greek to Latin couldn’t find a similar word. Ekklēsia means “those who are called out.” It is a word with a sense of direction and meaning to it that implies action.
Christ calls us faithful believers out of the world. He separates the rational concept of the world with the Civitate Dei-the City of God. In His prayer in John 17:14-19, Christ says that He is not from, or of, this world, and His followers also do not belong to this world. However, we are also sent into this world like the Apostles.
Throughout the Book of Acts, church expands from the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and a small, yet faithful, congregation to a new body of Christ and the Word across the Levant, Greece, Anatolia, and Rome. Through the Lord’s Supper, the called-out faithful are separated from this world into Christ, but they return to the world to spread the Gospel through evangelism, which St. Paul and the other Apostles did throughout the 1st Century.
Now most of the world is self-quarantined and in-person contact is extremely limited. Churches are limited to clergy. How can we act as the body of Christ?
The domestic church is a concept that’s been around since the Book of Acts. But it has received greater attention since the Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium as a calling for the laity to consecrate their homes into places of evangelization. This is so that they may genuinely carry out faith and love for Christ throughout their days in settings like the workplace.
In times of isolation, we can make our homes places of prayer and the study of love for the Word. During the current liturgical season of Lent, there aren’t many better times to improve our prayer and faith lives. We cannot always invite people over for Bible studies or to pray, but we can still continue similar practices to build the church in our homes and communities through forms of digital communication like Zoom. Even if we cannot hold those important devotions digitally, we can at the very least let our neighbors and loved ones know of our care and unconditional love for them. A text as simple as, “How can I pray for you today?” works wonders.
Our love for the Word and our need to build up community is not confined in the walls of a church. As Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in a house, and as the Apostles repeatedly spread His love through the household, we need to invite God into our homes so we can best carry His love into the world.
If soup kitchens and food pantries are still operating in your community, you have additional options to expand the church into the hearts of the afflicted. We have more free time at home during this pandemic. Let’s put away all the anxiety and fear for a better and higher purpose, and build a true church outside stone walls.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.