When devotionals come into our homes

“I am thinking of you; you are not alone.” This is what devotionals want to convey. At the same time, they act as a reminder, telling us: “Remember, don’t forget!” These are valuable messages, especially during the coronavirus age. And the Church leaders want to share them.

March 2020: much of the life we had known until then suddenly stopped. Our room to move has been restricted, people have to keep their distance from each other, and our homes have become a veritable fortress. Coronavirus dictates the social rules. In such crises people need two things: a strong character to help them handle isolation, as well as outside support so that they feel respected and appreciated. In the religious context, devotionals are exactly the right thing for such a crisis.

Devotional on the outside, meditation on the inside

There is no clear definition of what a devotional is or is not. Nor is this necessary, because in the end it is the result that counts: well executed, a devotional conveys peace, security, and a sense of fellowship. It urges us to reflect on solutions rather than cry over obvious problems. Devotionals are a beam of hope and direct the eyes of our heart to look forward. They are an effective antidote against depressing thoughts—a slowing down of stress and tension.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis is currently forcing us to come together virtually only, including the broadcast of such devotionals. But even that is worthwhile, as many have said. Devotionals with music, word-only devotionals, contemplative devotionals, or a mixture of all of these … devotionals are trendy.

Thoughts on the Bible text

The leaders of the New Apostolic Church have long since reacted and asked the Divine Service Guide working group to provide texts for devotionals. The introduction to the respective weekly text says: “The Church would like to offer spiritual support and encouragement during the time in which there are limited possibilities for divine services and also while the dispensation of the sacraments is not possible. This can be done in the form of a devotional, whether that be alone, with the family, or during pastoral care by telephone or telephone/video conferences.” They are published on Wednesday on the Church’s central website nak.org.

The devotional is based on a Bible text and some enlightening thoughts that revolve around it. What is the biblical context? What does it mean? What does it have to tell me? A conclusion rounds off the biblical discussion and sets the direction for further participation—music, prayers, and personal statements to round the devotional off.

A personal commitment for all

The structure of a devotional is irregular. Sometimes there is more text, other times more music or more quiet and reflection. There is no strict liturgical form. In its suggestions for devotionals, the Church leadership gives a few points on how it could be structured: a prayer at the beginning; the reading of a Bible text; a musical contribution—for example, a song from the hymnal that could be read, sung, or played, depending on the group or the possibilities; quiet, reflection, and discussion where possible; a musical contribution; praying the Lord’s Prayer at the end.

There have been many positive reactions from the congregations.

“I always look forward to Wednesday evening. The devotional in our small telephone congregation means a happy end to my day. After all the stress of working from home, the peace and quiet does me good.”

“It is always beautiful to hear the voices of brothers and sisters. Only then do you really begin to feel what you have lost through the lockdown. My congregation is very precious to me.”

“I used to be more a kind of take-it-or-leave-it person. Today I am actively involved myself.”

“Last week our district youth held a devotional. It was great. I am so proud of my young sisters and brothers.”

The offer is posted by the Church every Wednesday on the website of the New Apostolic Church International in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Germany. The material is intended for worldwide use.

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Peter Johanning
Congregational life