So now that most of the country is under heavy restrictions of social distancing to slow the spread of this latest disease, churches everywhere are having to reinvent their approach to public worship.
As Anglicans, I cannot repeat this enough – we have a built-in feature of our tradition that SHOULD make this incredibly easy: the Daily Office. The Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer don’t require a priest to lead them, they don’t require a sermon, they can be observed alone or in a group. If we had bothered teaching our congregation the Office beforehand, they would be in excellent shape to keep up those disciplines on their own right now at home. All we’d have to do is send them sermons, homilies, and reflections to aid their reading of the Scriptures in the meantime, and make the occasional plan for distributing communion, house to house.
Many of us have not taught them to pray the Office, however, partly because too many of us clergymen don’t pray the Office ourselves. But thankfully, in this internet age, there are excellent resources to help people.
The best is “Daily Office 2019” which beautifully and accurately puts together the Morning and Evening Offices for you. It even has the little Family Prayer devotions on a separate page.
The second-best options are the livestreams that many churches are offering now. This approach is a two-edged sword. On one hand, people get to see their (or another) church location, hear familiar music, and their favorite preacher(s). But the downside is that it makes worship even more of a spectator sport than usual. Our culture already has a problem with treating worship as a commodity, rather than an activity or discipline or offering in which each one participates, and livestreaming the liturgy (in part or in whole) will very easily play into that misconception and problem.
So, please, for the love of your congregation, or fellow laity, depending upon who you are reading this, teach others to pray the Daily Office so they can learn how to feed themselves. Worship via livestream can be a great-tasting experience, but it’s mere spoonfeeding compared to what people can receive in praying the Offices alone or in small groups!