Pastor of older congregation wonders how ‘new normal’ will look

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Keith Gambill says the church he serves as pastor — Enon Baptist, Camden — is an older, rural congregation, but they’ve adapted well to meeting online.

There’s no Wi-Fi at the church, but they’ve been continuing their Wednesday night Bible study on Revelation via Facebook live with Gambill teaching from his study at home. They’ve done that for Sunday worship too.

And though their congregation is largely 65 and older — with roughly half of their members in the nursing home — they’ve found ways to get everyone connected and looked after.

But Gambill’s wondering how the next “new normal” will look now that churches are cleared to meet again — and how to keep everyone safe.

‘It will be different’

“I talk with the members, and they can’t wait for us to all be able to get back together,” he said. “But when we do … it will be different.”

Gambill said he’s a hugger, and so are many of his church members, but they will have to maintain the social distancing guidelines.

“That’s going to be hard,” he said. “Our church is a loving church, and it’s going to be tough not to walk up to each other.”

And Gambill said he’ll wear a mask except when he’s preaching because he and many members of his church are high risk. For now, it will also mean he won’t be at the back of the church to receive people in a line as they leave after the service, and they will do their best to provide sanitizer and wipes.

‘God has worked’

“So far, none of our families have contracted the virus, and we want to do our best to keep people safe,” he said. “That’s our main concern.”

But even though it’s not what Gambill would call ideal, he said God has worked in the midst of this unusual season.

“A lot of the churches in our area are rural and have started streaming for the first time. That’s made an impact on more people,” he said, noting he personally knows people who have been watching who haven’t been to church in a long time. “And some churches plan to keep on streaming even after we’re able to meet together again.”