Reflection- Second Baptist Church
It feels like it has been a while since I’ve updated all of you on the state of Second Baptist Church, at least from the pastor’s perspective. So, as my weekly reflection this week, I thought I’d offer a few heartfelt thoughts, pastor to people.
When this pandemic began, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about all the ways it would impact our congregation. I worried about us being separated. I worried about how online worship and study would warp how we feel about doing so in the flesh. I worried about how in the world we could care for each other while properly distanced. I worried about our ministry partners. I worried about our giving. Like many of you, I have never lived through a global pandemic before, so I was more than a little concerned about all the ways it would impact our church.
Over the last several weeks, however, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful expressions of love and most faithful manifestations of church in my life. I’ve seen people take meals to those who couldn’t get out. I’ve seen homebound folks check in on other homebound folks. I’ve seen people respond to the needs around them by making masks, delivering tents to homeless agencies, and helping people move apartments. I’ve seen staff doing their best to care for our people, sometimes in the most creative ways. I’ve seen worship and Bible study take place in ways in which the Spirit of God was palpable, even through a screen. I’ve seen our giving continually and regularly supersede our giving from last year at this same time. I have stood in awe of 2BC in these weeks, and I fully believe that we will come back stronger after the pandemic than we were before.
Over the next few weeks, more and more churches will be going back to corporate gathered worship. I know the pressure will build for us to do the same, but let me assure you that we will not gather for some time still. I wish I could give you a date, but I can’t. However, it is still not in our best interests to do so. It’s not in Little Rock’s best interests that we do so. We have vulnerable people in our congregation and vulnerable people all around our church building as well. When the time is right and it is safe to do so, we will gather together with all the appropriate joy, and dance together before our God. Until that time, we’ll worship and commune together as we’ve been doing, socially distanced from one another.
I want you to know that these decisions are not easy for us to make. They are made with grief and mourning inextricably linked to them. We miss you people. We miss the hugs and handshakes. We miss the live music and the sort of preaching that comes from looking each other in our eyes. We long to break bread and drink from the cup with you. We long to replenish the 2BC calendar with all the events we’ve canceled thus far. To be sure, there is a great deal of grief and mourning. We want you to know that we feel the difficulty of this season with all of you, but we also feel the hope of what 2BC is today and will be when we reconvene.
I did want you to be aware of one acute source of grief for us, which is the departure of Hulitt and Sheila Gloer, who will pack up on the 19th and leave on the 20th for Kansas City. One of my life’s greatest joys and highest honors was to be one of Hulitt’s students, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that we would one day be colleagues. Is there any way to measure what both of them have meant to us in these days? Sheila has worked many hours at Lake Nixon and MLK Reads, and Hulitt’s manifold gifts have been on display with regularity all over our congregation. It hurts to see them go, but I can’t help but give thanks for their time with us. At some point, after the threat of the virus has subsided, we will have them back to 2BC in the flesh so that we can honor them appropriately and give thanks for their ministries amongst us. However, I would strongly encourage you to send cards, emails, and notes of gratitude to them now, before they depart on May 20th.
Ultimately, our grief and pain are real in these days, but so is our joy and awe at the good things in our midst. In that way, maybe these days aren’t so different from all our other days. We are pushing through, giving thanks for wonderful things that can only come from God, and trusting God to interpret our sighs that are too deep for words. I am no longer worried about all the things that troubled me before. I’m encouraged by a church that refuses to be afraid of anything and a God who constantly does more than we could ever ask, think, or imagine.