I’ve wanted to quit online worship the last two Sundays. Which is a surprise to me because we’ve been live streaming for 4.5 years. I’m used to seeing my face on a screen. Used to my tech team reminding me (again) to stay inside the box of tape on the floor. Used to someone asking me which service felt like the best sermon so they could edit it for sharing later that day. Which is why my desire to quit all this the last couple weeks is surprising.
Sure, there are nuanced layers of grief mixed in. There’s a chance I won’t see my church family again before moving to a new appointment in June. I’m trying to figure out how to grieve and celebrate our time together without being able to see them. There’s normal human pandemic loss to navigate.
But the feeling I have on Sundays after worship is a different kind of something. That’s not good.
It started when we moved our online streaming set up to our parsonage, instead of the empty sanctuary we’d been in for the last three weeks, due to a Stay at Home order for Washington State. When in the sanctuary, sure it felt odd to talk only to a camera, but that was a fun challenge. I still had the muscle memory of leading worship from the same spot on the floor, with the chairs where they should be, with the tech booth where it always is, with light streaming in through the windows.
Now we’re at home in a small office with five monitors, five computers, tablets, phones, tripods, microphones, a makeshift altar, instruments and cables. Our 5 and 8-year-old are in the next room over coloring and crafting because we turned their tablets on airplane mode so they wouldn’t crash our WiFi.
As someone who’s been comfortable with social media for a long time and gets the value of technology as a means to the grace of God, I’ve been unclear as to why I’m struggling with this. Then it hit me.
I feel like a producer, not a pastor.
My producer husband reminds me this is what our tech team has been doing for years. They’re used to catching a glitch and muting a microphone. To sucking in their breath when a feed drops for a moment. To getting a text from someone who can’t hear from home.
I am not.
I’m used to doing my own work to facilitate a gathering of the Beloved community. As a pastor. The thing I’m trained and called to do. To pray, speak, encourage, comfort, challenge and laugh.
I am not a producer.
And yet, here we are. Lots of us. Pastors who are now producers, to some degree.
The one thing that’s stopped me from quitting each week is a well-timed text from a church member sharing how much the service meant to them. Thank you, Pastor. This meant a lot to me. I feel less alone. It’s so good to gather this way.
I take a deep breath. Remember how much I love these people. And commit to try it again next week.
I’m reminded that, in God’s world, it’s almost always “yes/and,” not “either/or.” Instead of being a producer or a pastor, what does it look like to be a pastor in the midst of producing?
It doesn’t feel comfortable yet. I hope one day that it does. It’s worth it for text messages from a friend like this: I am blessed because you risk this.
I see you pastors and leaders. Let’s keep risking this together. We’ll keep showing up in new ways and spaces and formats and technologies if it means God gets a little more room to do what God loves to do. Set people free.
All ways of being are up for discussion in this season. Here’s to the changing of our identities as we release, adapt and innovate. God is always inviting us forward.
Mic check. Mic check. One, two, three.