It's now a few months into 2021, and there's a good chance you haven't been back to church since things shut down in 2020. One of the benefits residents in assisted living communities have is that they may be able to take part in worship opportunities right in their community. The Gardens at Barry Road in Kansas City, MO, offers a number of faith-based activities, including Sunday services and Bible study, for example.
But whether you're joining in on worship in creative ways, watching church services on the computer or television or actually getting out to go to services in a socially distanced, safe way, you might be missing some of the freedom of worship before COVID-19. Or, perhaps you're looking back on pre-COVID church services and wondering how exactly some of those traditions got to be normal.
Here's a look at six things that were normal in many worship services before the pandemic. Seniors of faith may remember some of them fondly or with a bit of laughter. And if we can find a little thing to chuckle over in today's world, it's worth exploring.
The handshake was invented in the 5th century in Greece. Back then, it was a way to show that neither person was carrying a weapon and that everyone came in peace. The gesture has evolved through the years to what we know today—or at least knew in 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
Some people have said the pandemic killed the handshake, and whether this friendly greeting will make its way back into regular use remains to be seen. But, depending on which church you were a part of, you may be very familiar with the handshake.
As people filed in to worship, you may have heard the rumble of voices and the shifting of shoes as people made their way around, greeting each other and shaking hands. And, if that wasn't enough, many churches had a time of greeting during the worship service where congregants are encouraged to turn and greet their neighbors—often with a handshake.
With everyone shaking hands and no one using hand sanitizer or soap in between, by the time you've gotten through a service, you've metaphorically shaken hands with the entire congregation. Joking aside, this one is probably something better left to healthier times and an activity seniors with chronic health conditions may want to avoid even if the handshake returns.
Depending on the culture of the church you attended, hugging might have been as rampant as handshakes. If you're a long-time person of faith, you know that there are multiple types of hugs in churches. You may have experienced some:
• The bear hug: Usually reserved for people who are comfortable with each other or relatives. This is a hug with both arms that lasts for at least a few seconds.
• The friendship hug: Like the bear hug, tends to use both arms. But the hug is fast and gentle.
• The back-clap hug: One or two arms, and the hug lasts only as long as it takes to pat or clap the other person on the back. One clap if you see the person regularly; two claps if you don't or you're conveying some extra care.
• The side hug: A favorite of the socially awkward or those who aren't fans of hugging. If you see someone coming in for a hug, you can initiate first, hugging them from the side with one arm.
Will hugging return? Chances are you've already snuck a few hugs in when you could, so we're thinking it never went away. And as more people are vaccinated and herd immunity grows, more general hugging in churches and elsewhere can hopefully become common place again.
It's a common joke that some pews get filled while others languish. In many churches, the very front pews sit empty while people cram into back and middle pews, for example.
Churches that did open during COVID-19 had to map out pew seating carefully. Families or groups from the same houses sat in their own pews with plenty of space between each group.
Perhaps spreading out in the church and using all the pews will be a habit that sticks after the pandemic. It might be nice not to sit squished shoulder-to-shoulder with people on a warm Sunday, especially if the pastor decides to run long with the sermon.
Throughout the pandemic, the media ran numerous stories about whether singing in church was safe. Apparently, when you bellow out the lyrics in spiritual worship, you're also bellowing out germs...
But remember pre-COVID, when it was common to hold a hymnal with your neighbor, singing close together as you used the same book? Putting the music up on a screen may start to sound like an even better idea to many.
Some congregations actually break bread for communion, passing out small pieces of flat bread to be shared between two people. While it's a lovely gesture, it's probably a safe bet that many churches are going to move to one wafer per person going forward.
Have you ever been in church and someone at the end of the pew got a cough or tickle in the throat? It was totally normal for someone on the other end to fish out a mint or hard candy and pass it down the line.
That's probably not a tradition that's going to stand the test of time...
This blog post was a tongue-in-cheek look at some common traditions that might have been changed forever by the pandemic. While these are serious subjects, laughter is important too, and we hope this brought a little to you.