Our Stories: Worshiping without gathering

Contributed Community

By Renae Hester

Joe and I moved to Madison three years ago when I was called to be the Minister of Music at Madison Baptist Church. As a Georgia native, I was truly thrilled to be moving back home. This move brought me back into music ministry, close to my then 90-year-old mother, my oldest son and his family, my sisters – the list goes on. Joe was called to be a chaplain with WellStar AMC hospital in Atlanta. All the pieces were falling into place.

Then the roller coaster ride began – transitions with my mother, two new grandbabies, oldest son moving, youngest son getting married and moving to Missouri, staff changes at church, etc. 

The new uphill climb on this roller coaster ride is COVID-19 and shelter-in-place. Each hill on this ride provides both challenges and opportunities.   

I love church and I love people. The joy of gathering together with the people of God to worship, study, and fellowship is the definition of all being right with the world. 

So shelter-in-place is the challenge for me during this time. I want so desperately to gather – especially during Holy Week. 

The Sanctuary Choir was preparing anthems for Palm Sunday and Easter; the Joyful Ringers (our handbell choir) was preparing to ring in these special services; processionals; children; Scripture; Maundy Thursday service – all the pieces were coming together and I was in my happy place. And, lest I forget, the icing on the cake was all the different opportunities we were going to have during April to see and keep our grandkids. And then the roller coaster took a huge turn.

Now for the opportunities. Rather than being crazy busy, we have the opportunity to slow down – the opportunity to look at things through different eyes. How do we do worship when we can’t gather?  

Technology has opened the door for Facebook Live worship. Church family members are doing Sunday School lessons, Children Sermons, special music and sermons from home. 

How do we care for those who are homebound? 

Deacons and so many others are reaching out to check on everyone to make sure all their needs are met. How do we do church? We put palm branches on our doors and on the cross. We put red bows on our mailboxes. 

We pray. We sing. We learn to “be still and know that He is God.” As so many have reminded us, we don’t do church, we are the church.

This life is a roller coaster ride and I am thankful. I am thankful for a church family and a wonderful community who make it a wonderful ride. Most of all, I am thankful for a Savior who prepared me for times like this when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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