Letters From a 14 Year Old: Dear Synod, about the Virtual Church...
Written by Kathlyn Copley
Dear CRC Synod 2023,
What about the body?
In a culture where our physical body is as disconnected and disregarded as it can be, we - as a church- should hold fast to the importance of it.
In my first letter, that I addressed to the “Culture,” I pointed to Culture for lowering the body to the point where we can cut it, abuse it, and share it however and wherever we want (all under the name of “Love”).
My second letter, written to you, Synod 2023, was that, for my generation, truth will be more powerful than a rainbow flag.
But in this last letter I want to focus on how the body of Christ, which is the bride of Jesus representing the beauty of married life between a man and a woman, is better face to face. And how this married life cannot work virtually on devices (for long)... especially for kids.
This article will bring you back to Monday where you, Synod, had a debate of if a device-only church can be considered a church. There were a lot of discussions happening on this issue, some of them very compelling- like the ones coming from the younger generation. That is where my attention will also be leaning towards, how the Virtual Church affects my generation.
I get how virtual church seems like the perfect opportunity to connect to kids because they can just pull out the church anytime from their back pocket. But even as I'm writing it sounds wrong. The Church is holy. It is the Bride of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Kids aren't going to figure that out if they worship on the same device you find porn. I know that might sound extreme but the phone is full of distractions. Sometimes I feel like it was made to distract people. Especially kids. Like every time any notifications come up, *ding* there goes our focus from worship to view whatever grabbed our attention.
Synod, I remember my dad saying if you ever want to be assured of someone's attention you go to them in person. With emails or even phone calls they could be thinking of a million other things, but in-person their focus is directed on you.
That's what happens at church. The whole worship service is trying to fix our eyes on our Savior and get away from distractions. (That’s like the experience of worship we had with you last month, Synod.)
But online church isn’t that same experience, it’s like you are not really present.
I felt this myself during Covid. When I did online school, everything seemed so much harder since I wasn’t really there. This is the same with live-streaming or pre-recorded church worship. For over a year our church was lounging on the couch with a blanket and every so often getting up to get some tea. We were removed from people outside our family. That's not church, that's basically watching a movie.
A movie is where you just watch a screen, worship is about more than just seeing people, hearing music, and a sermon. It is about singing with the whole congregation, about tasting the bread and cup at communion, about smelling the flowers and perfume worn by evergoing sweet old ladies, about shaking hands and hearing laughter. About having refreshments with friends and feeling a whole room ring with praise that your body joins in by lifting your hands in connected worship of our God.
Church is not just an experience of good music or a good sermon. It’s relationships. With God and with others. That is the final thing I’ll say about this issue, how the church is “in the body.”
This is a big reason why kids go to church in the first place. I'm telling you, Synod, getting rid of the real life which puts us in touch (real touch) with real humans, won't help get kids back in church. When you first ask a kid “why do you go to church?” the common answer is “my parents forced me to.” But even if it starts that way, though we kids won't admit it, we like going to church for the relationships there. It's the church groups like GEMS, Cadets, Sunday School, worship teams and youth groups that bring impact into a kid's life.
I know it did for me.
But what happens when we make a church exclusively virtual? It cuts us kids off from those social and belonging connections that keep us coming back.
So my advice, Synod 2023, if the CRC wants to keep kids in the church: the real, holy, powerful Church– as much as possible, let's keep the church in the buildings and the ministry in the devices.
The 14 Year Old
Kathlyn Copley is a member of Trinity CRC, in Ames, IA and will be entering high school this fall. She loves drumming, longboarding, hiking, her family, and her faith.