The Rocky Mountain American Baptist
A Newsletter of the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains
When Obstacles Meet Opportunity
Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been forced to close down churches, come up with new ways of doing worship, and to adjust to life changes. Before COVID, I understood a “pivot” to be an irrigation system (center pivot) or the position I played in basketball back in high school. Over the last six months we have learned to pivot multiple times in the shifting landscape of this present reality.
As we grieve the old ways of gathering in church, leaders have scrambled to keep us informed, and to help us to best discern fact from fiction. We’ve also learned how to determine best practices during this time to promote congregational health. But, are we living in the “new normal” of church life? Is the church able to adapt? Can the church survive … let alone … thrive in this climate?
One thing we know, “God will build his church (Mt. 16:18)” with the Greek word ekklesia translated “church.” It is defined as “an assembly” or as the “called-out ones.” The church is a Body of believers and NOT the building where they meet. So, was the pandemic of 2020 able to close down the church? Hardly, in fact there is evidence that this trial has both tried and tested the church … and as a result, found it “alive and kicking.” (Continued below).
How have you turned obstacles into opportunities?
Share your stories, articles, pictures, and artwork with us
for our End of the Year Book: Reflections 20/20.
When our Governor gave the state a “Stay at Home” order and limited groups to 10 or fewer, we had to close down our services in the building. So, we set up a “house church movement” with eight members opening their homes for worship. We held worship in these homes for a couple of months. About 30 percent of our church family continued to meet weekly.
The house church movement gave leaders an opportunity to lead small group ministries. They had access to the weekly message posted on YouTube and provided hospitality to these groups within our ministry. These house churches worked to develop leaders, encourage new friendships, and support families through the beginning of this pandemic. Other members were able to catch the sermons, announcements, and worship songs through the same media at home.
We found unexpected outcomes from these initial days of the pandemic. A Vietnam-era veteran who has been tormented by PTSD met a house church leader that quickly befriended him. They never missed a weekend of gathering. This fall, the man attended a men’s retreat that was led by his host and was able to fully accept God’s love and forgiveness, setting him free from years of feeling shame. While on the retreat, he heard a pastor talk about a new understanding of obstacles being turned into opportunities. A new word was coined, “obstatunities.” We continue to take every obstacle before the Lord and to seek finding a fresh opportunity to do ministry in a whole new way.
Another obstacle we faced in the community was that we no longer had the access to visit hospitals, nursing homes or the local jail or prison. So, we activated the house churches in a letter-writing campaign to make sure that the sick, the elderly, those who were incarcerated and homebound were not forgotten by isolation from their church family. We put together calling lists and asked volunteers to check up on those we could contact by phone. Whenever we confronted another obstacle, we figured out news ways to address the needs creatively.
Once we started meeting at the building again, we put into place cleaning routines as we made hand sanitizer and handy-wipes available to participants. We met in an outdoor pavilion through summer and have just moved inside in the last month. The church family has not all returned. Some are still hesitant to meet together in a larger group. But, we have found ways to share in worship and community through the pandemic.
Will more obstacles arise? Most assuredly “yes,” but we believe that God will see us through in his grace, mercy, and truth.