How one pastor is comforting his members during the COVID-19 pandemic
Besides spiritual encouragement, people also need the assurance that when they are in need, they will get the help
The past few weeks since the coronavirus was first detected in the United States and in many parts of the world have been unusually cataclysmic. These are days of abnormal fear, panic, anxiety and hopelessness with towering ramifications on human health, financial security, social life and future goals.
Fear, loneliness and stress have become companions in homes, even Christian households. When social and spiritual interactions are thwarted, not by choice but by circumstances beyond our control, we are forced to adjust. Consequently, doing church in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed for all churches, especially predominantly black churches. This is because black churches and congregants have a great affinity for coming together to worship God in church buildings. About eight in 10 African Americans identify as Christian, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study.
As a pastor of the Church of Pentecost U.S.A. Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a branch of the Church of Pentecost International, my first role is to uplift my over 600 congregants. Globally, branches of the church are found in over 100 nations, including the U.S. The Church of Pentecost U.S.A. Inc. has a current membership of approximately 32,000 across the U.S. At my church, I try to remind my congregants that God is still in the business of protecting his own and to stay strong until the Lord’s delivering power is fully exerted over the coronavirus outbreak.
I’m a pastor, but I also serve as social support, an adviser and someone to lean on for anxious members. Late one night, for example, a member called me crying because of a 40% drop in their 401(k) investments. My conversation with my member was intimately Scriptural. I took lessons from God’s word to assure them that God will never leave them nor forsake his own. Or that genuine faith dares to trust God in times of difficulties and does not look at circumstances, but looks solely to God.
Although I may not have lost my job as a pastor in this period, I put myself in the shoes of my congregants who have lost jobs already or are afraid of losing their jobs. At times, Christians sit through sermons and teachings about faith and seem as though nothing can move them. However, the Christian’s faith is tested during storms, I explain to some members.
I also encourage people to find space inside their homes and to worship God intimately and individually, even as gathering together has become impossible. Prayer is what I engage in with my congregants on a daily basis. I tell them to pray fervently and encourage them to pray to God. Because in Colossians 1:17, the Scripture said, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Besides spiritual encouragement, people also need the assurance that when they are in need, they will get the help. So I try to help meet the physical needs of my congregants, too. This includes assisting in finding new jobs for those affected, visiting those who may be displaced by health concerns (no one in my church has the coronavirus that I know of), making phone calls to everyone as much as possible, creating a food supply chain by the church to supplement what some families may need, and preparing individuals for their next possible job interviews. These are personal life issues that I must encourage my members over and discuss what may be possible. Everyone comes to their wit’s end over some physical life issues at some point, and all these emotions are understandable. These conversations and activities keep me as a pastor working, especially in these very dire periods of human anguish and uncertainties.
And the easiest remedy that most people have found is to pray incessantly to God for a much-needed divine reprieve.