Spacing Out

We’re all basically in a place right now where we have so many attentional drains, because we don’t have place to focus us. You know, going to a place focuses our effort, because we’re here to do a thing, but when you’re working out of your home, it’s very different.

How to Channel Your Attention, Todd Henry. The Accidental Creative Podcast ©2020

We recently received a message that some of our people would not return to church, because we required face masks (in compliance with the government directive).

First of all, this is not about any COVID-19 face mask requirements in your state (or country). Nor is this about the apparent disregard some have for the authorities. Nor is this about those who rigidly adhere.

This is about space.

Many years ago, I heard about a study on sleep and reading. The study’s supposed conclusion was that if we spend all our time reading in our bed, we will psychologically associate our bed (a place of sleep/rest) with reading (a wakeful activity). This makes it, according to the study, harder to fall asleep.

Associating a space with an activity is valuable, and very human. This is part of what makes the current conversation about church online difficult. There is a reason many people cannot move beyond the space.

Thomas Moore wrote about this in one of his books (I can’t remember if it was Care of the Soul or Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life) about people making altars in the simple places in their homes.

We see this in many Asian countries. If you go to many Asian restaurants, you will see, often at the entrance, a very simple shrine. You may overlook it. However, that is a “place” within another “place” that has a completely different function.

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 NIV)

Why bring that up? Well, it’s talking about space; a private space for a particular activity.

That family from the opening? They were looking for a space worship with certain requirements.

Todd Henry’s focus was on how, for those working from home, there is all this stuff competing for attention. His point being that people were having to fight greater distractions from home. He was applying this to work.

This also applies to church. A person is at home “watching” church. The same distractions that may have caused a problem working remotely now impact worship.

For the ongoing COVID season, we may have to start thinking about teaching people about space and preparing a space for worship. It could be as simple as a couple of candles that are only used during worship (back to the whole psychology thing).

There is another reason for this. Should the church return to the building next year (we hope), we may have to reteach and relearn how to worship again together. Yes, that’s down the road, but it’s back to space, and it would be a different space than the space once worshiped in (i.e., their home).

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Ian

Ian is an ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene. He currently serves as the Online Campus Pastor at Generations Community Church in Marysville, WA. He is blessed by his wife and 3 children.

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