By Bishop Mike Ainsworth
I remembered when everything changed.
I was participating in an IPHC Council of Bishops meeting on March 11, 2020 in Gulf Shores, Alabama when I heard the breaking news that the World Health Organization has announced that the novel coronavirus viral disease was now officially a pandemic. Just a few days later while in the Atlanta Airport I watched as the nation began to shut down. Soon announcements from government officials resulted in major disruptions that included closing businesses, schools and churches. Closing churches because of a pandemic? I remember thinking, “Is this for real?” Soon others began describing the time with worlds like unparalleled, extraordinary and unprecedented.
Soon Pastors stepped up their efforts in the disruption to serve and stay connected to their congregations. Congregations moved outside the walls of the church and beyond their typical ministry practices to provide Drive-In Services, Facebook live services and small group Zoom meetings. Digital and tele-congregational care became the primary way to do Pastoral Care. Community outreach opportunities ensued with prayer and encouragement to first responders, food and resources to families in need and other truly creative ways to demonstrate that the church will not back away or duck down during the pandemic. The church is alive and well!
Pastors have remarked that this stressful season of ministry has not only presented unique challenges, but also undeniable opportunities. Many have reported that it has been a time of spiritual, financial and evangelistic growth. Many are now regularly ministering to more people through their online and parking lot services than they experienced before the pandemic.
Now, nine weeks later, as states and regions around the country are either “reopening” or preparing to reopen, people are returning to their places of work and newly opened stores, restaurants and churches. But they are doing so with new policies and procedures that seek to protect each other from contracting the virus. As we emerge (some more quickly than others) to see what this “new normal” everyone is talking about, I hope we will take some time to reflect on this unusual season so we can identify what we have learned, and reemerge with fresh gratitude to the Lord for the things we have gained or regained.
Perhaps it’s significance that we are planning our return to in-person gatherings during the season of Pentecost – a time we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. I pray that having gone through this pandemic, we will MOVE FORWARD with a new appreciation for being “all together in one place.” With the many stories of the unfailing hand of God at work so faithfully and powerfully in the middle of this colossal disruption, I pray we will MOVE FORWARD with a genuine hunger for the Holy Spirit to fill us and work through us!
Acts 2:1 “They were all together in one place.”
Acts 2:4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
I hope that our monthly emails, news and resources will be of some help and encouragement to you as you prepare to return to your individual campuses. Please know we love each of you and are praying for you again today.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Mike Ainsworth
Cornerstone Conference IPHC