We were guests. Attending a worship service, we were greeted and welcomed kindly. We rarely took note that someone else had turned on the lights, cleaned the floor and wiped down the pews.


Someone else had stocked the restrooms with paper towels and toilet paper, printed the worship aid and placed the listening devices on the back table, or in a temple, the basket of extra yarmulkes.


Someone else had identified the readings, selected the music and prepared a sermon.


And what did we do? We took it all for granted and waited to be served. Sometimes, we complained the parking lot was too crowded, the cantor was too loud and the service was too long.


Still, we turned to our imams, our ministers, our priests and our rabbis to shepherd us; to tell us how to live. Our deference was well-intended, but unintentionally, it often caused us to become disengaged.


Many of us went through the motions in a service believing this was all that was required to be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim.


Being sheep and grazing mindlessly is not what is expected of true believers. We are told multitudes matter; we are the church. Not just the bishop wearing a mitre, the minister on television reaching thousands, the learned rabbi writing rabbinic literature, or the head imam making decisions for his mosque. They each have a role in their faith tradition; however, we — the everyday, sometimes ignorant, sometimes enlightened people of faith — do too.


We have been served graciously by our faith leaders and their staffs, but presently, many of our buildings are shut down because of the pandemic. Suddenly our old ways of worshipping are gone. We have some substitutions — services being limited, filmed or held outside. Somehow, though, it is not the same. It is not enough, and we are left with questions. If we are the church, the faithful in the temple considered worthy of a personal relationship with God, how are we now to behave? How are we to shore up our beliefs? How are we to pass on the faith to our children? How are we to become who we are called to be?


I think in our isolation and despair, the answer might be rather simple. We have to go from being passive to being active. From being led, to leading. From being served, to serving — serving ourselves in our faith journey and serving others.


So can we increase our own faith in this wretched COVID-19 environment when we are closed off from our usual worship gatherings? Certainly, our efforts will reflect our personalities and our particular faith traditions.


I’m enjoying the psalms, poems that teach. I’m reading devotional books and biographies of holy people who have been leaders, activists, or scholars, which has enlarged my views of faith. Recently, I delved into the extensive biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer "Strange Glory" by Charles Marsh. Listening to great spiritual music of all kinds stretches and soothes me. A quiet time in this stay-at-home period has helped me listen to God’s calling and the stirring of my heart.


Serving other people during this pandemic in any way that aligns with our health, age and interest can transform us. Carol, a shut-in, says she is drawn to prayer, especially intercessory prayer for others. Mark phones his elderly aunties frequently. Marsha’s neighbors deliver her groceries. Charlie makes a peach pie for his family and one for a buddy just furloughed.


Sally, Judy, Catherine, Lynn, Gerry, Kaitlyn, and Pastor Cathy work as a hospitable team offering homeless women a place to shower, personal supplies and gentle fellowship on Fridays in the Family Life Center of their church. Parents send pictures to grandparents of a toddler’s first steps, a new tooth, or a birthday party missed. All holy acts.


One of the good things that comes out of this too-long crisis might be owning our own faith journey and reaching out to others with love, as never before. It might change us, making us better than we have any right to be. Yet, we yearn for the blessings of community worship.


Judy Knotts is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church, and former head of St. Gabriel’s Catholic School and St. Michael's Catholic Academy. Her newest book, "You Are My Brother," is a collection of past American-Statesman faith columns.