Dear Church Family,
At a recent gathering of pastors from all around the country (on Zoom!) with Mark Tidsworth of Pinnacle Leadership Associates, I gained insight into some of the ways in which churches have been responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We talked about how churches are experiencing:
- Longing for familiarity, reconnection, safety, stability;
- Fear (not concern for neighbors, but crippling anxiety) about things like member loss, institutional decline, worrying that our way of doing church is gone forever, and of course the horrible divisiveness in our culture;
- Grief (which is a normal response to loss!) over death, loss of employment or finances, loss of opportunities, loss of familiar faith practices;
- Adaptation – exponential and tremendous in these last few months! Creating cultures of innovation, a willingness to let go of former expectations, and an ability to be church in new ways;
- Vitality – One theologian called this “Being alive in the adventure of Jesus,” experiencing hope and an eagerness to continue leaning forward into the future church.
While all churches have some of all of the reactions mentioned, including ours, they asked us to choose which of these our church had the most of. Of the four pastors in my small group discussion, three spoke of deep longing and grief as the major responses by their church members right now. I almost felt bad going last because while yes, I see us experiencing all of these things, as I reflect on the last few months, I have a very different situation to report about the people who call themselves First Baptist Church of Martinsville, VA.
I don’t see a preponderance of longing – we want to protect each other and our community, so we have made new ways to worship and study and fellowship, and though we long for hugs and handshakes and presence, we aren’t primarily driven by that notion. I don’t see an abundance of fear – we have deep concerns for our neighbors and we love them, so we are cautious, but we don’t seem driven by the kinds of fears that cripple our ministries. And yes, we ALL have experienced the grief this pandemic has wrought in so many ways, but it has not overshadowed our hope in every moment.
Instead, I said to my small group that this church has adapted and found new vitality, even in the midst of the chaos of a pandemic. I have seen us dream bigger in this season than we have in a long time. I have seen us willing to try new things like outdoor church, online church, mass email communications, use of social media and web presence, Zoom gatherings, and so much more. I’ve seen us embrace our mission to love this community with our funding, our presence, our gifts of prayer and food.
I just want you to know, as I sat with this group of pastors, I was immensely proud of you. You have shown enormous perseverance, love, care, and so much more in this season of physical distance from one another. You have stepped up to give of your time and resources, to make phone calls and write letters. Even when you’ve been frustrated (as we all are) with technology, you have learned it, and been able to love each other virtually. You are a church that recognizes God’s faithfulness and responds in kind, and I am so grateful for it. I’ll add too that you have helped to make this season easier on a church staff (myself included) that feels frazzled by all the newness with your cards and calls to remind us that we are loved and supported.
This Sunday, September 13, 2020, we re-gather in person in the Sanctuary for the first time since the beginning of March. We have put precautions in place (out of our concern for one other’s health – not fear!). If you have not read that list of requirements for in-person worship, please Click Here. Also, we have adapted our technology to live stream the service online and by phone as it’s happening in person in the Sanctuary so we are all able to worship together simultaneously. (Many thanks to our Trustees for helping us to fund this endeavor, to Building & Grounds Chair Ronnie Garren for helping us get connected, and to Jermaine Shelton at Martinsville Electronics who has helped us do all the research to set us up!). BUT KEEP IN MIND & HEART: It is faithful and appropriate to continue worshiping virtually even as we have scheduled events in-person. We made the effort to be able to have both available because they are both faithful ways to worship together!
To watch worship live online, use one of the following links:
If you have Facebook, Click Here to find our Church Facebook page and watch for the Live Stream on Sunday just before 11AM. (Note: If you are on Facebook and haven’t “Liked” our page – do that now and you can begin sharing our church’s posts with your friends on Facebook!)
If you don’t have Facebook, Click Here to go to our YouTube Channel and watch the Live Stream at 11AM.
Also, beginning this Sunday, we will also have a brand-new service for our meetings with a call-in option called GoTo Meeting. This more economical option will function much like Zoom did. To join, you will click the meeting link in your email this coming Sunday and follow the prompts to download GoTo Meeting on your computer. I encourage you to do this ahead of time so you can jump right on the meeting Sunday.
To download the GoTo Meeting Client for your Computer (Desktop or Laptop), Click Here
To download the app for your smart phone or tablet (iPhone or Android), Click Here
To call in and listen to worship or a small group (no video, just audio), call The NEW Toll-Free Call-In Number: 1-877-309-2073 and enter The Access Code: 905-849-221
Read more about GoTo Meeting and Get Support by Clicking Here
Check your e-newsletter and/or Sunday morning email for direct meeting links (for security, we won’t post that on the website).
Here’s to continued spiritual growth in this odd season! I am praying for you and proud of all you have done on behalf of the Kingdom of God in these days. It’s an honor to be your pastor.