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The Coronavirus Diaries: Homes of Prayer

Wednesday January 27 2021

The Rev Dr Neal D Presa of the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes how online gatherings have replaced worship in church

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...  And every day in the temple at home, they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah – Acts 2:42; 5:42 (NRSV)

Like so many of you, the global health pandemic has upended our livelihoods and what ministry used to be.

Here in southern California since about the beginning of March 2020, we have had to creatively figure out how to minister to and minister with our congregation and wider community when health protocols limit, and in some periods, prohibit gathering in large groups.

When the Governor of California issued shelter-in-place directives around March 16 2020 and it became clear that our 1100-member congregation would not be gathering in our sanctuary for worship services and our campus would be off-limits for any fellowship gatherings, I began a Daily Morning Prayer Liturgy, a virtual prayer community on Facebook Live and Zoom that meets Sunday through Saturday at 5:30am Pacific Time (1:30pm UK time) for about 30 minutes to read and hear together the daily lectionary readings for the day and to offer prayers of thanksgiving and intercession for personal, community, national, and global needs. We use the Daily Prayer edition of The Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and occasionally use Rite 1 and Rite 2 of Morning Prayer of The Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church.

This daily virtual prayer community has brought together friends, family, ministry colleagues, and new friends from all over the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the Pacific, Nigeria, Asia, Lebanon, and Venezuela. On any given morning (or evening, depending on your time zone), there are about 25-30 people, and because Facebook Live records the gathering and is posted afterward on my Facebook wall, there are about an additional 100-150 viewers who watch the broadcast.

People type their prayers on the Facebook comment box, or those who join via Zoom share their prayer concerns vocally, and for those who have particular prayer updates or prayer requests after each broadcast, they send a message by email or private message or post them on my Facebook wall.

From praying for personal health concerns, comfort for the grieving, to efforts for racial justice in America and our recent presidential election, to human rights work in the Philippines and the raging civil war in Cameroon – this virtual prayer fellowship intercedes for the human community in the micro- and macro-. We celebrate birthdays, and we have even wept together when I found out that one of my aunts was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And just a few weeks ago, I discovered that one of the participants was my distant cousin through my maternal grandmother. Thus, we are a community in faith by water and by blood! 

The Daily Morning Prayer Liturgy community is part of a number of virtual prayer and worshipping communities. Our homes have literally become house churches, homes of prayer. While we miss being with one another face-to-face, that yearning for human interaction has prompted and encouraged many of us to be diligent in connecting with whatever means we have been blessed with, to not take our relationships for granted, and to rely upon the gifts of our faith: Scripture, prayer, community, and the God, who through Christ and the Spirit, is among us.

Lord, in your mercies, hear our prayers.

The Rev Dr Neal D Presa is a minister and past Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Visiting Professor of Practical Theology at the International Theological Seminary (West Covina, California) and Union Theological Seminary (Dasmariñas, Philippines), Research Fellow of Practical and Missional Theology of the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa), a Fellow of The Center for Pastor Theologians (Oak Park, Illinois), and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Foundation. He and his family reside in Carlsbad, California in San Diego north county. Connect via LinkedIn (/in/NealPresa), Twitter (@NealPresa), or Facebook. For his publications:

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'