Thursday March 19th
Our church, and specifically behind the pulpit of our church, is absolutely my favorite place to be. There are many (maybe most) weeks when my daily mantra is “if I can just make it to Sunday, everything will be OK”. This week, in the midst of all the chaos around us, was no different…
We are truly living in interesting times. Not since the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 has the church in America been asked to modify or stop church gatherings in the name of public health. That year 50,000 cases were reported across South Carolina alone, resulting in 14,250 deaths… many just days after diagnosis.
For the better part of three months at the end of 1918, the majority of SC churches shuttered their doors, associations across the state did not meet, and even the annual meeting was postponed until the outbreak had subsided. For our part, Baptist churches across this state saw this disruption as a duty necessary to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. (More recently, we did cancel a Sunday morning service 4 years ago when a state of emergency was declared in South Carolina because of severe weather and flooding.)
So we are not living in unprecedented times; our predecessors did face a very similar occurrence just over 100 years ago. Yet, I dare say that none of us were here to experience that, so this has caught us (especially me) off guard. We meet often to discuss church safety and good practices, but we have never met to discuss how to handle a pandemic. These times will surely shape and direct future conversations for years to come.
There is no handbook on how to pastor during a pandemic … except one. The Holy Bible has everything we need to handle whatever we face in this life, as well as the one to come. So, in times like these, we turn to the Word:
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7
Because we know the Lord, we do not need to fear, we do not panic, and we do not participate in languuage and activities that further society’s decline into utter chaos. Because we know the Lord, we can live without the spirit of fear, knowing the He is always watching over us. His power inside of us gives us strength… strength to keep going even when things look bleak. His love for us and in us gives us love…. love that we can then share with those who are hurting. His gift of sound judgement gives us direction… direction to follow and lead with so that His people will continue to love and lead well even if all else falls apart.
In the spirit of sound judgement, I have met with the deacons and we have made some decisions to help safeguard our church family and our community from this virus of pandemic preportions:
Effective Thursday, March 19th, the following statement is in effect until further notice:
- All activities for Sunday, March 22nd & Wednesday, March 25th have been cancelled.
- this includes ALL classes, worship services, meetings, and any use of the church building and/or J.A.M. House.
*The deacons and I are expected to meet again (by telephone) on Monday of next week, as well as any other days needed, to discuss the remainder of March, but for now, this statement is limited to the dates listed above.
** We will have a livestream service this Sunday (March 22nd) morning at 11am, this service will be available on our church Facebook page as well as on our website (www.firstbethany.org) via a FB plug-in on the bottom left portion of the main page.
As always, the deacons and I are available to you by phone, text, social media message, or email – 24 hours a day. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to call upon us. I cannot express this enough: The Church Is Not Closed – because the church has never been the building, but the people inside of it.
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it – Matthew 16:18
This is an amazing opportunity for us, especially fathers and husbands, to step up and lead our families, our neighborhoods, and our communities well. Let us not waste this opportunity that we have in front of us to show a lost and dying world who Jesus Christ is and the difference He makes in our lives! I am praying for you all, please pray for me as well.
I will see you all soon – May God bless you and keep you safe in these times of trouble,
Rev. John H. Alexander, Jr. – signed
Mr. Clifton E. White, Chairman of Deacons – endorsed