An update and a prayer

Take a deep breath, then let it out slowly. Take another deep breath and let that one out slowly, too.

Many of you have probably heard by now that, last Sunday, several churches across the US had their worship interrupted by a coordinated effort of some who tried to project awful images to people. At this point, the reasons for this are not clear. A few weeks ago, we sent out information about Zoombombing and encouraged you to take some steps to help prevent it (you can find a more recent and concise outline of some steps to take here). I’ve heard from many of you that you already have. Although these actions definitely help, it looks as though new ways around some of those protections were used last week. One of our churches in the PNC was a victim of this. Because of the nature of materials that were projected as well as the widespread nature of the effort itself, law enforcement has become involved and the companies that provide video conferencing are working to figure out ways to prevent such actions.

We have to think a lot about being true to who we are as church and doing what we can to make church as safe a place as we can for those who participate. Its been particularly intense these days as we’ve worked to balance out the real threat of the pandemic with the desire to see each other’s faces; addressing the mental and spiritual injury that can come from isolation; the inequalities amplified by economic and social disruption; the gifts and vulnerabilities around adopting new technologies; etc., etc., etc. Holding all these things in mind is exhausting. I’m tired, too.

Take a deep breath, then let it out slowly. Take another deep breath and let that one out slowly, too.

We’re going to figure this out. What we come up with won’t be perfect and, inevitably, we’ll have to adjust it along the way as we learn. That’s OK. With God’s help, we can do this.

If your worship is interrupted, a few practical suggestions for right now. I know that some of you have more complicated plans than this. That’s great. I also know that not all of us have the same capacity. Let me suggest four very simple, basic steps for your consideration right now.

  1. Adopt the recommendations linked above. They are neither foolproof or perfect but they will help.
  2. Some organizations have people on their video meetings whose job it is to counter interruptions if they occur. This isn’t realistic for most of us. Keeping in mind the harm that some images may cause to those who witness them, don’t hesitate to quickly shut down a worship service. Let folks know, as part of announcements at the beginning of worship, that you plan on doing this if a problem emerges.
  3. If your worship is interrupted with obscene or hateful imagery or language, contact your local police department, file a complaint with the FBI, and contact the provider of the service you used. Timeliness helps. Please let me know, too.
  4. Contact as many people as you can who were present for worship explaining why you did what you did and what steps have been taken. Let folks know that there will be changes in how worship happens for the next couple of weeks that you’ll share, later. Invite those who want to talk about it to reach out to the pastor or other appropriate folks.

Take a deep breath, then let it out slowly. Take another deep breath and let that one out slowly, too.

So, for all of us preparing for worship, a prayer:

Dear God,

Quiet our hearts and minds and, at the same time, enliven them.

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor internet challenges, nor bad phone signals, nor the unintentionally unmuted microphone, nor the unintentionally muted microphone, nor the malintent of some, nor technological surprises, nor the inability to sing a hymn together, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The love of God is present, surrounding us, and wanting the best for us.
As we worship together this morning may we be blessed, protected, and fully awake to all the ways Spirit is sustaining us. May we find ways to be a graceful blessing to each other. May we find a commonplace among our separate spaces. May it be holy ground.


With hope,



Rev. Mike Denton

Conference Minister of
The ​Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Church of Christ

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