Sometime ago I participated in a North Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship zoom meeting. The leader of the meeting asked us to describe, with one word, our Covid-19 experience as it relates to the church. As you have heard me say before, I chose the word, “disorienting.” As often happens after a meeting or a conversation, upon further reflection, I wished I had said something different. “Disorienting” indeed describes one aspect of my covid church experience. Another word, however, that equally describes my covid church experience is “curious.”

I am curious what the long-term effects of covid will be on the church around the world. And, of course, I am most curious what the effects will be on our congregation – FBC Ahoskie. Will we regain our pre-covid vitality and momentum? Will the weekly use of Facebook Live lead to smaller gatherings on Sunday mornings in our sanctuary? People are now out of the habit of driving to the meeting house each Sunday for sanctuary worship. Will some, many, or most find it difficult to resume their pre-covid routines?

I admit I have been surprised by our numbers for sanctuary worship. I thought they would be a tad higher than they have been. Of course, I would never put pressure on anyone in high-risk categories to make the return quickly. Nor would I ask anyone to return who is simply not yet comfortable as I know that covid cases in Hertford county are on the rise. I am also aware that we are only three weeks into our return to in-person sanctuary worship. Nonetheless, I had the impression, before the sanctuary renovation was complete, that there was a strong thirst to return to in-person worship with appropriate precautions in place. Add to my surprise over lower than expected numbers, the reality that our weekly giving has dropped significantly, and I am simply, not yet discouraged, but curious. What exactly does this mean for our church in the future?

I reflect often on my role as your pastor. Of late, I have thought of my role as pastor in the light of a photographer. When a photographer takes a picture, s/he will direct our eyes with their fingers, often with a snap of their fingers, and they will say something like, “Look over here, look at my nose, look at my left hand.” Snap, snap, “Over here.” This is especially so if the subject of the photograph is a child or, even, a pet. Snap, snap, “Eyes over here.”

A major component of my role is to snap my fingers and say, “Look over here, look at the church!” Indeed, I snap my fingers and say over and over again, “Don’t forget about the church, you need the church, there are many activities competing for your attention but none is more important than the church!” I snap my fingers and I say, “Your children need the church, if you do not train your children now they likely will never find a significant place for the church in their lives, the church holds the message of salvation through Jesus the Christ not a football field or a basketball court!” Snap, Snap, “You need the church and the church needs you!”

I am curious indeed. It was challenging for me to get people’s attention before covid. How does a pastor compete with the beach, the mountains, shopping, football games, family gatherings, and a score of other weekend activities? What will it be like now as we begin to resume in-person activities? In due time my curiosity will be settled. And no matter the outcome, I will continue to snap my fingers and say, “Over here, over here!”

In Christ,

Paul R. Gilliam III