It is coming up on almost a full year since I have entered the doors of a church building.

Many have found streaming or joining Zoom calls for their weekly spiritual feeding as an only option has not been enough. Going to a physical building for worship has been apart of many of our lives since we can remember. We love the community, we love the music, we love the feeling of being connected. Many pastors were faced with difficult decisions to keep the doors of their churches closed. Church as we know it has changed.

Across the country, churches have opened their doors and have have begun returning to their places of worship. I have to admit this saddened me. While there are some pastors that are genuine and made this decision from a sincere place, others have rushed back for different reasons.

I was disheartened to hear a snippet of a message from a pastor that was condemning those that celebrated Christmas. While I fully respect what a person chooses to believe or practice, his message did not sound like it was delivered in love. Nor did it feel he came from a place of sincerely wanting to educate his parishioners as to why he had chosen not to celebrate Christmas. Again, it was just a snippet so I am unable to give full context.

It is my guess he is one of those leaders that used cute quotes such as “faith over fear” to cause his followers to question their own faith because they have chosen to exercise caution. I digress. Too many churches across the country are filled with people week after week that are subjected to abusive rhetoric and abusive delivery. This unfortunately begins to work it’s way into a person’s spiritual identity; and the voice of God starts to sound less and less like one of love and grace.

The gift of social distancing afforded us the opportunity to check in to ensure we are in a good place spiritually when we are not able to be validated in a church setting. For those that needed it, we have been able to repair and align our hearts and minds to ensure we are aligning with God’s. Sometimes you may not know you are being spiritual abused until what you are used to is stripped away. It is my prayer that as people begin returning to church, that there is not an undoing of any spiritual progress that may have been made during their time away. It is my prayer that one’s spiritual identity is not predicated on the approval of pastors or the position or rank we may hold in our local assemblies.

I’m happy for those that have not experienced anxiety being away from church and realize your spiritual autonomy remains in tact regardless of where you are worshipping.

During my time away I have been able to see ways in which I could exercise more love and patience. I have observed ways in which I needed to be better about showing compassion and grace. While I have not gathered weekly with those I was used to seeing so often, my relationships with those I have genuine connections with has not waivered. I’ve accepted the gift of spiritually social distancing and found that I am better for it.