At a time of uncertainty with houses of worship closed, local churches and ministers are finding ways to stay involved in the community and with their congregations. Five local ministers spoke with the Democrat to convey their thoughts of encouragement to the community.
The Rev. Chad McMullin is the senior pastor of First Christian Church and the president of the Pettis County Ministerial Association. The Rev. Don Satterwhite is the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. The Rev. Dennis Harper is the senior pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church. The Rev. Cathy Jurgens is the pastor of Immanuel United Church of Christ. The Rev. Rob Hughes is the pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church.
How are you hosting services for your congregation since the outbreak?
McMullin: “The First Christian Church in Sedalia is responding to the challenges of this crisis through our already strong social media ministry. The ministry staff along with our music leaders and A/V team members are all working around the clock to reach out to others.
“We have broadcast personal messages from our pastor, we have recorded and shared our Sunday morning worship service, we are hosting an event on Tuesday night (March 24) in which two of Sedalia's finest musicians, Darrin Hartman and Amy Tilley, are playing the piano and singing hymns all live through our website First4God.com and on Facebook Live. We have Right Now Media small groups forming as we speak. Our youth group has been meeting on an internet platform called Zoom on Wednesdays and Sundays.
“We are convinced that staying connected to one another in faith groups is going to be healthy and helpful during this difficult time. New prayer groups are forming.”
Satterwhite: “We are having virtual church with Facebook live and YouTube at 10 a.m. on Sundays and 6 p.m. on Wednesday. We are also staying in touch with our members through phone calls, text messages and emails.”
Harper: “Wesley United Methodist is using its Facebook page and website to offer worship and community since the outbreak. I am doing a midweek prayer time on Facebook Live on Wednesday at noon, and we are posting a message every Sunday for worship. We do not have a good setup for hosting live online worship, so worship content is recorded on a weekly basis and then posted.”
Jurgens: “I am primarily sending out written devotions to my church. I’m working to do more videos and trying to figure out what that will look like especially for Holy Week.
“And I’m hoping I can put together a good experience for people as we walk through the most important week of the Christian year. Our wonderful organist also has been sending out a devotional called ‘Music in dark times’ that has really touched people as well.”
Hughes; “A unique and challenging situation such as COVID-19 demands a unique and creative approach. In lieu of our Sunday worship service or a simulated worship service in an empty sanctuary, we are offering online content under the umbrella EXTREME LENT: a unified prayer video, Fireside Chat with Pastor Rob, online Bible discussions, online movie discussions hosted by Cine-Men (Broadway Church’s men’s movie group), a children’s message, Joy of the Week video, and an Elder music playlist.
“This online suite brings us together, encourages spiritual growth, and helps us endure this COVID-19 challenge.”
How are you and the congregation helping the community get through this?
McMullin: “Along the same lines, part of our faith demands that we serve others. We've had to get more creative, but even as I write this article, our student minister of missions is delivering food to the food pantry, one of our elders is disinfecting the Open Door Thrift Store and countless others are running errands and reaching out in whatever way they can.
“First Christian Church was the first church to be founded in Sedalia; and Lord willing, we hope to continue to serve this community until the return of our King!”
Satterwhite: “Through these calls we are checking to see if anyone needs anything and helping to meet those needs. I'm challenging the people of Calvary Baptist Church to put their faith in God.
“We have a choice to worry ourselves to death or to trust God. Proverbs 3:5 and 6 says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.’"
Harper: “In the midst of these challenging times we are working at being intentional about staying connected to one another through phone calls and writing notes and letters. There are people from Wesley that are working at Open Door regularly.”
Jurgens: We are continuing to support Open Door and its operations. The president of the board is a member here and has done an amazing job of keeping us up to date about ways we can support and keep this organization afloat in these scary times.”
Hughes: “We also remain active in Meals on Wheels, are continuing to provide non-perishable food donations, as well as our ongoing support of Show-Me Christian Youth Home. We will emerge from these contractions and isolation to celebrate Easter with a richer perspective on life and new life.”
Could you offer words of faith and encouragement to the community as citizens go through this crisis?
McMullin: “The value of a deeply spiritual, true community is priceless! We know that everyone is experiencing this crisis in deeply personal and challenging ways.
“For so long, people have found their sense of security in their own ability to provide for themselves, to work hard and get things done, many people have kept themselves away from the Lord and from one another. With all of that stuff being threatened, we are all being invited to reevaluate our priorities. At First Christian Church, we know that a deeply spiritual Christian community is a gift from God that brings friendships, strength, hope and encouragement for our lives. We are leaning on each other, we are finding new ways to stay connected, and as always, we are inviting others to join.”
Satterwhite: “We will get beyond this crisis so keep your head up and do your best to encourage someone else. Make a phone call to a friend or family member and see if you can do anything for them.
“Don't forget that your church is most likely funded by the tithes and offerings of God's people so please do your part. Just because you can't be at church, those who know Christ as their Savior and Lord are still the church. Pray for your pastor and church leaders and call them to let them know of your prayers.”
Harper: “God is with our community in this trying time. God does not abandon us, and if we all look around we will have the opportunity to offer and receive love and compassion. There is hope.”
Jurgens: “I would remind folks that although we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future. We don’t need to panic. Although things are uncertain and can feel scary, we have a God who will be with us through all of this.
“We are never alone. And so many others will remind us of God’s presence if we will only let them.”
Hughes: “The season of Lent, a 40-day season of self-reflection, giving up what is tempting, and spiritual discipline prior to Easter, has now become an extreme Lent. We have given up so much and our lives have contracted so much.
“We don’t worship together, we don’t go out, we don’t eat out, we are more isolated and contracted. Yet, as with childbirth, in which there are contractions and pain, new life can emerge from our current painful circumstances.
“We can emerge with better health practices, better relationships, clearer priorities, and deeper faith. Flowers bloom from deep in the mud, and the Resurrection emerges from a burial tomb.”