One of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make in our leadership journey as Salvation Army officers faced us 12 months ago. With the newly discovered COVID-19 virus spreading across the territory, the decision was made to close our corps doors for gathered worship, at least for a period of time. Our corps would still continue to meet virtually and serve their communities, but physical gathering was not an option. What would this mean for worship?

Who could have imagined everything this past year and living with COVID-19 would mean? Imagine corps officers and leadership teams discovering again the heart of worship. There is no denying that we would have preferred if it were possible to be together for worship. Yet when stripped of routines and physical locations for gathering, there has been a fresh awakening of worship that helps to build a holy community. As Commissioner Phil Needham describes in his book, Christ at the Door, worship that helps to shape a holy people has the three key subjects of Scripture: God, his people and the world.

Worship begins with God—he alone is worthy of our worship. Worship calls the people of God to prayer, discipleship, holy living and love for one another. Finally, Needham points us to the world, reminding us that worship must call us to love the world as Jesus did and to give our lives for the salvation of the world. These dimensions of worship reach beyond the walls of any building in which we gather together.

Some corps have been able to reopen their doors for worship, for a time, following health and safety protocols. Some corps have been able to provide online worship services. We have seen the gathering of people through Zoom meetings for prayer and Bible study. We have watched with great interest as “worship at home” kits were prepared and delivered when it was not possible to meet in person.

In all these approaches to worship, God has been shaping a holy community. Through these dimensions of worship, God is standing up a vast army (see Ezekiel 37:10), inspired for mission and positioned for the growth of his kingdom. Needham succinctly describes our worship as independent of opportunities to gather in buildings when he writes: “We bring our lives into worship and we bring worship into our lives.” In these coming weeks, as we approach Easter and celebrate the risen Lord who is worthy of all praise, may we continue to be shaped as a holy people as we worship.

Photo: Leah Bee Creative/

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