Reviews | Should we continue religious services online?

For the editor:

Regarding “Churches Should Abandon Online Services,” by Reverend Tish Harrison Warren (Opinion, January 31):

I read Ms. Warren’s essay with deep concern. People of faith cherish the embodied bond that develops from safe and responsible in-person worship and other forms of fellowship, but we in the Episcopal Church – the only member of the Anglican Communion based in the United States – are also aware that Jesus of Nazareth gave the highest priority to the sick, the weak and the marginalized.

The pandemic has forced digital innovations into the way we do church, perhaps uncomfortably for some, and to abandon these advancements in favor of our old, familiar ways is to lose sight of what we have gained. At a time when the dominant narrative about organized religion is its steady decline, we see and hear stories of churches growing through online services.

Much more important than numbers, however, is Who could be served in the digital space. At the heart of our mission as Christians is the ability to welcome people who, for a myriad of personal reasons, face barriers to accessing in-person worship.

As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminded us in his Easter message: “We will not cease, and we will not give up, until this world reflects less our nightmare and more God’s dream – where there is plenty of room for all the children of God.

(Rev.) CK Robertson
New York
The author is a canon of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

For the editor:

Tish Harrison Warren expresses exactly the feeling I have had as I have attended in-person and virtual liturgies — and preached on camera at a number of them — throughout the past year. While I greatly sympathize with the fact that many people are unable to attend worship due to Covid, what has developed is a series of private moments of participation rather than a real sense of liturgy and community.

Some particularly tech-savvy churches have put their energies into production values ​​rather than human and spiritual interactions. “Now people can ‘attend’ from anywhere” is the somewhat valid justification for sitting in one’s living room sipping a cup of coffee and maybe humming along, with the most minimal interaction if one chooses. press the “chat” button.

In the long run, the normalization of this online presence serves neither the deep sense of community necessary for the spiritual growth of a faithful nor the health of a particular denomination unless it wishes to evolve into the mega-church. Sunday morning media. And that leaves aside the whole question of the invitation to share communion.

Yes, virtual liturgy has served to keep people somewhat connected in times of crisis, but it has deteriorated and will only contribute to an atomization of worship, which is the opposite of the purpose of liturgy.

David Pasinsky
Fayetteville, NY
The writer is a former priest.

For the editor:

At a time when religious attendance is at an all-time low, to suggest that a wonderful technological innovation that actually brings people into a religious setting should stop is more than counterproductive; it is absurd. There are so many people for whom this is the only option if they want to worship – such as those who are housebound, have difficulty walking distance, lack transportation, or face weather constraints. or financial.

As a housebound, medically disabled grandmother in a distant city, how else could I have attended my first grandchild’s bat mitzvah? Of course, I missed the personal hugs and kisses, and the congratulatory hugs; however, my long-distance involvement with Zoom is now a treasured memory. Family all over the world were able to share in the joy.

I am quite sure that God does not need us in any particular place to hear and honor our devotions. It’s the act that counts, not the physical contact.

Susan Addelston
New York

For the editor:

As a Presbyterian pastor in the Midwest, I found Tish Harrison Warren’s opinion dangerous and contrary to the Gospel. The infection rate is still dangerously high in my part of the country. The vaccination rate is low. Mask-wearing is anathema to many – more a political flag than an act of Christian concern for neighbors.

While I agree on the centrality of embodied faith, our bodies include our brains. We know that if we come together to eat, sing and hug before local infection and hospitalization rates drop, illness will increase and we will strain health care resources, many of which are already at risk. beyond their capabilities. Some will die needlessly.

It would have been more responsible and Christian to say that we should abandon online worship when it is safe to do so according to the data in our area.

(Rev.) Carol Wickersham
Clinton, Wis.

For the editor:

On “Everybody Wins With Webb Space Telescope” (Science Times, February 1):

Thank you for Dennis Overbye’s eloquent hymn to the James Webb Space Telescope as the embodiment of humanity’s insatiable quest for knowledge.

A fundamental aspect of human nature is to wonder how we got here. The Webb Space Telescope is designed to look at the dawn of the universe closer than any man-made instrument ever, potentially offering insight into the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, and with it a better understanding of the origins of our own world, and perhaps of life itself.

As Carl Sagan observed, “Our planet is a solitary speck in the great enveloping cosmic darkness.” Our investment of time and money in studying the universe speaks to the value we place on knowledge and our confidence in the incredible technological achievements that our scientists and engineers can produce.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

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