Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer (Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

Scripture: Psalm 139:7 -Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (Complete Jewish Bible)

In this, the most holy season on faith calendars, practitioners of practical spirituality struggle to hold on to the communal expressions of shared religiosity amid the tension of governmental mandates to public health and safety.

Amid these days of pandemic and panic, frustration and faith, the religious-minded find themselves in the tension of spiritual celebration and spatial isolation. Worshipers, clergy, laity and religious leaders are drawn between coming together to share their faith and being obedient to public guidelines that prohibit such congregating.

It is in this tension that we are challenged to remember that the object of our faith is not limited to time nor space. The One who was present to cover and protect each Hebrew home in anticipation of the Exodus and deliverance; is the same One who met with the fledgling Pentecostal church that met from house-to-house.

He was no less Omnipresent when leading them through the Red Sea than in the small family gatherings after Pentecost. There was no crowd as the shepherd walked through the valley of the shadow of death. So it is with us; we are walking through a dangerous valley of the shadow of death. But we shall come through it.

There was no great crowd around the cross, which is the focal point of Christian theology of salvation, healing and deliverance. This declaration of Divine presence, amid those who gather in synagogues, churches, mega churches, storefront sanctuaries, is no less a spiritual reality than in the minimal context of two or three gathered in that name. The One who exhorts us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves in community also says He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Declare that your house – your personal house – is a house of prayer. From the thousands at the temple, to the clusters in the synagogues, to the two or three gathered in His name in the early church – our worship is legitimized, not by how many of us are present, but by God’s presence regardless of how many – even if you worship him alone, you are not alone.

Finally, remember that we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power to stand in the midst of adversity. We have opportunities to express love to others – inside and beyond our close circles – along with the ability to make sound judgements and wise decisions.

It is wise to both worship personally, or even privately, while doing so as a sound, wise decision and as an act of good judgment. We should be worshipful and wise; not either/or, but both/and. We look forward to the day when we gather with throngs of like-minded worshipers, but until then, we stay at home – and know that we are blessed even there as we worship, knowing that the God of our faith is with us.

Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, DMin, PhD, is the senior pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood and founder of The Ulmer Institute.