“There’s not a more pertinent subject now for our churches than regathering,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “The Bible says ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and we’re trying to learn from one another. The ‘trifecta’ we deal with is whether this disease will be seasonal, the economic downturn because of it and the current civil unrest in America.”
Lance was part of a video conference on June 9 called, “The Latest Trends in Regathering.” State missionary Ken Allen served as host.
Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea, and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, was one of two pastor-presenters.
“March 8 was our last ‘normal’ service, and we began a ‘soft roll-out’ on May 31,” he said. “Our people are excited and are following the social distancing guidelines. Many are wearing masks.”
Cox said Liberty did not have pews affixed to the floor, so spacing chairs wasn’t that hard to do, though Liberty now seats about one-third of its former capacity.
“We’ve worshipped by registration in order to fulfill the spacing we need, and we had more than 150 last Sunday,” he said. “Our seniors have been a bit slower to return and also our younger couples with children. We’re not offering child care yet, so these families think it’s best to view the online worship at home with their toddlers.”
No Sunday School for now
Cox said no Sunday School classes are meeting on campus, though several did videoconferencing or had outside meetings at private residences.
“We hope we can do Sunday School again when school starts this fall, but this is only our hope and I have no data to base this on now,” he said.
Robert Mullins of Crossroads Community Church in Elmore said May 31 was their relaunch too.
“We had great attendance, but we’re a little different,” he said. “We have a park we call North Ridge, and we’ve been meeting outdoors. Another reason is our children’s area is under renovation, so construction dust is near the sanctuary. So far, the weather has been good for us, though we know this could change any time.”
Mullins said Crossroads’ online worship has featured two options.
“I record a Bible study early in the week so this can be used without outdoor interference,” he said.
Mullins said he has been sharing decisions with church leadership and plans to reevaluate priorities and strategies in the months ahead.
Cox said live stream has been a viable option for Liberty, and he’s been pleased that many have begun to use online giving.
“We now have many ways to give, and this is a good thing,” he said.
In response to a question about the Lord’s Supper, Mullins said the self-contained units are hard to find now due to their popularity.
“We offered a livestream Lord’s Supper on Good Friday,” he said. “I wouldn’t have any hesitation to do this again.”
Allen said he’d heard of a church using multiple serving tables for the Lord’s Supper in order to distance people.
Neither pastor has baptized during the shut-down, but have people awaiting baptism. Mullins said they’ve discussed borrowing a portable pool for baptism.
VBS is another issue during COVID-19. Cox said they will have a virtual VBS and plans are in progress. Mullins said Crossroads plans to conduct VBS on Wednesday nights at the appropriate time.
“Some churches are doing the backyard Bible clubs rather than VBS,” Allen said. “This means the situation is smaller and manageable and the parents are involved, too.”
As far as music, Allen said “More are singing [congregationally] than not singing, though some churches ask people to wear masks when they sing.”
He also said he wasn’t aware of churches recommissioning choirs at this time.
‘One step at a time’
Cox said he’d been surprised by the duration of the contagion and the physical energy it required for church leaders.
“I’m sitting here this morning exhausted, and I ask myself ‘Why?’”, he said with a laugh. “Leadership taxes us in these days.”
“Though I’m a dreamer of big dreams, I’ve learned we must walk one step at a time,” he said.