We were chatting with a couple of pastors this week, on opposite sides of the U.S. They were both wincing under the fellowship restrictions currently imposed on the churches they pastor. They find a significant number of their members are uncomfortable being in close quarters with others in a closed space, thus, their attendance is about half of pre-Covid. One of the churches has not met in person since February of last year.
As these leaders see it, the handshakes and the hugs are a significant part of the reason people go to church. Not the major reason to be sure, but a reason nonetheless. But somehow a vegetarian hug (aka a fist-bump) just isn’t the same as the real thing.
The interesting thing I learned was that both of these leaders had come up with similar solutions to the drought. One called it their Virtual Foyer. It works like this: After the benediction everyone is invited to go to the “Upper Zoom.” Those who were in the service in person begin to arrive at home, and those who stayed home are invited to log on. Contact info is included in the bulletin and on the church website. In at least one case, a younger couple stops by the home of an older couple and helps them get hooked up.
A host signs on and welcomes those who wish to join. It took a few weeks for it to catch on, but over the next few minutes a majority of the congregation gathers. It’s not as noisy as a real foyer, but it serves the same purpose. Everyone is welcomed. And it’s praise time. And testimony time. And “we really missed you today” time. And “I was so blessed by the sermon/music/children’s story” time.
And a lot of other foyer stuff goes on. “Fred, is your cough better?” “Mildred, I saw your daughter at Costco this week. How’s that new baby doing?” “Anybody have a special need we can pray for?” “Anybody have a report about how they’ve seen God at work this week?” Anybody need any help we can provide or errands we can run for you?” The gathering may last an hour.
Admittedly the Virtual Foyer isn’t as good as the real foyer just as a virtual hug isn’t quite as good as the real thing. But almost. It sort of makes all of us feel like we’re recovering huggers till this mess goes away. At least five times the New Testament encourages us to greet each other with a holy kiss (Rom 16:16 et al) but that’ll have to wait. Meanwhile we can gather in the Virtual Foyer.
By Don Jacobsen