Experiencing Reopening at St. John’s, Elora

The church of St. John's in Elora
 on March 31, 2022

This year, we welcomed people back to two liturgies on Ash Wednesday: a 10:30 a.m. said service of Holy Communion, which had 30 people, and a 7:30 p.m. BCP penitential service for Ash Wednesday with imposition of ashes, with 28 people. The liturgy included an octet from the parish choir and offering the Lord’s Prayer in Latvian by a member of the community, as an act of solidarity in praying with and for Ukraine. This service was live-streamed on YouTube.

We were so looking forward to gathering with a live congregation at St. John’s, and members of the parish were glad to be together in the shared space of the church building with other people, hearing the choir and participating in the prayers with other people.

As people gathered in the church, the typical solemnity of Ash Wednesday was overwhelmed by the joy of being together. The significance was amplified this year as we joined with Christians around the world to pray for peace in Ukraine, and could process the events of the world as a community gathered in prayer.

As someone said after the morning liturgy, “It’s so good to hear other people pray the prayers with me, and not just offer them alone.” To me that speaks to community.

While live-streaming liturgies provides unimagined opportunities to stay connected, and we are committed to continue them, there is nothing like being together in real time in a holy and beautiful space to offer prayers to God with the communion of saints both on earth and in heaven. There is something tangible, tactile, and concrete about being physically present that helps make the palpable experience of worship feel more immediate and accessible, yet at the same time more transcendent. Being out of the habit of attending church over the past two years, some people are still cautious about returning in-person, while others are quite excited. This mixture of response is one reason why we still offer the live-stream option to help people stay connected and, with guidelines in place, provide an on-ramp for re-entry.

  • Paul Walker

    The Reverend Canon Paul Walker is rector of St. John's, Elora.

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