Church Family and Friends,
From Genesis through Revelation, Holy Scripture echoes a common theme: “Do not be afraid.” Our God knows that there are times that trigger our fear and anxiety. And absolutely, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 – how it transfers from one person to another, how we should respond in a responsible way, what we need to do to protect ourselves and all of our family, our friends, and our neighbors – well, it all has ripple effects of fear.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we know that God is with us in the midst of the questions and fears generated by this disease. And, while it is easy to be overwhelmed by the information (and misinformation) flowing around us, we can rely on God’s promise to be a calm and hopeful presence to those who are anxious, afraid, and sick.
I know that it is not easy to social distance, but we all need to stay home as much as we can unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary to go get something essential. We need to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our area by loving our friends and neighbors enough to stay home and always remain six feet away when we do have to go out for the essentials of life.
Since we are being told at the federal level that social distancing will need to continue until at least the end of April, all of us need to develop routines in this new normal. I know it’s easy to lose track of time, to feel scattered or out of sorts, or to spend the day binge watching Tiger King or something of equal value. But we need to develop a schedule for our days – what time you get up, what time you go to bed, when you work, when you rest. Things can feel unsettled and unsettling so we need to find some order in the chaos.
And, like we talked about a few times this year, this is a great time for all of us to start dedicating time for prayer, for scripture reading, for watching the daily devotions the pastors are posting on Facebook, and watching the Stations of the Cross that Sherry Harris is posting. This is a wonderful time for us to do the work of the Lenten Season and connect with God at a deeper level.
And there are ways to stay connected to one another. I am thrilled to see Sunday school classes, small groups, age level ministries, staff, and committees meeting online. Most are using a free online video tool like Webex or Zoom. We really are blessed to have such technology readily available to us. We will be providing some help in getting started with Webex and Zoom and we will also be adding more ways for us to be together through those opportunities in the days and weeks to come.
It is so wonderful to see the children of the church saying their memory verses on Facebook and Instagram, to see the Elementary and Little Lambs doing their Sunday school lessons, to see our Thrive Student Ministries doing online bible studies, and small groups, and devotions, and more. It is also wonderful to see our Dance, Conservatory and Day School teachers finding ways to virtually be with their students.
And as a church, we are still trying to meet the needs of our community. The Food Pantry volunteers packed 100 extra bags of food and we are sharing those when there is need. Last Thursday we had four families pack 60 self-contained meals to be distributed by the City of Birmingham for the city’s homeless population. And we will keep doing this when the city lifts up the need.
I do hope that you will continue worshipping with us on Sunday on Facebook, on our church app, or on our Website. And if you watch on Facebook, please click the share button so that others can join us. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and while we won’t be together physically at the church, we will still be worshipping and celebrating our Lord’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We will be moving through Holy Week together as we prepare for the Celebration of Easter. You’ll see more about that schedule in a later email as well as social media.
As you know, this year our church is focusing on Prayer. And so I hope you will:
- Lift up in prayer our neighbors who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Pray for those who are sick – with COVID-19 or with something else, and for their families who can’t be with them.
- Pray for the health and safety of the medical teams, the first responders, and all who risk their own health to care for ours.
- Pray for the health and safety of all who are working keeping essential businesses open so that we can have what we need. And pray for the business owners and employees of those businesses who have had to close or whose business revenue and diminished significantly – and closure may be in their future.
- Pray for all who are struggling – feeling isolation moving toward loneliness or depression.
- Pray for all who deal with issues related to mental illness – for those who depend on a routine and structure of daily life to help hold them together – and now that mooring feels like it has come loose.
- As the school systems have announced they will shift to virtual learning for the remainder of this semester – pray for the students who are adjusting to a different style of learning, and who have seen their routines completely upended. Pray for parents who are learning how to teach, and who will be juggling more than ever across the weeks to come.
- I know that there have been numerous comments about non-essential businesses closing, when should things reopen, and how quickly should restrictions be lifted – and I know that it seems every day and with every press conference there are new orders to follow and new rules to learn. Here is my suggestion – remember that no leader currently leading any country in our world, or any state, or county, or city, or business, or church has ever led in a time of a global pandemic of this magnitude. So rather than complain or critique – spend time praying for each of them.
- And pray for the scientists around our country and world who are working for a vaccine and an improved treatment protocol to speed recovery.
There is so much happening that could trigger our fear or our anxiety, but as disciples of Jesus Christ, we know that God is with us. And in this time in the church, I think the Spirit is working to teach us alternatives and strategies that will serve us well after this situation has passed.
My prayer is that you will be blessed as you distance yourself and that you will use this opportunity to draw closer to God.
It is in honor to be in ministry with you and you remain always in my prayers.
Bill Brunson, Senior Pastor