Pastor Bill Teague has been telling his members at Hope Tabernacle that we are living in changing times and that even after we get rid of the virus, life won’t be the same.
Every pastor in Forest Park seems to assess our present moment in history the same way, i.e. that these are unprecedented times and that “normal” is not what we’ll get back to.
One change is that every faith community in town is sending out their worship services online instead of gathering in person. Hope Tabernacle meets virtually on GoToMeeting. You can worship with Living Word’s pastor, Dr. Bill Winston, on YouTube streaming on ROKU.
Forest Park Baptist Church gathers for worship and meetings online with Zoom. Pastor Pongsak Limthonviratn said St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church uses LiveStream on LINE for worship and Zoom for their Wednesday Bible studies. Fr. Stan Kuca reported that 90 people attended the virtual Mass at St. Bernardine Catholic Church which was streamed on YouTube last Sunday. You can worship virtually with St. John Lutheran Church on YouTube.
One way Pastor Maurice Streeter maintained social distance was to distribute communion to parishioners “curbside” on April 6.
Somewhat to their surprise, Forest Park pastors reported that the online attendance at their streaming services has been very good. Pastor Teague said his attendance is even greater than when they were holding services in person.
Although the medium of online apps might convey the message that times are changing in significant ways, Forest Park faith leaders are reaching back to stories thousands of years old as the basis for the messages they are streaming.
Pastor Teague has avoided the Pollyanna promise that before we know it everything will be fine and back to normal in a month or two while at the same time assuring his people that the way to “get through this” is to put their lives in God’s hands.
One of the stories he has used is the one about Noah, who survived not a pandemic but a flood that covered the earth by following God’s instructions to build an ark. Another story is about Abraham and Sarah getting pregnant when he was 100 years old and she was 90, and setting out on a faith journey to an unknown destination simply trusting in God’s leading.
Rev. Teague chuckled as he noted the people of Israel complained that all they had to eat on their freedom journey was the same old manna day after day — a lesson for those who complain about inconveniences like wearing masks when they go out in public.
Pastor Leonard Payton reached back to the history of St. John Lutheran in a message posted on the congregation’s website. He pointed out that God had brought the congregation through World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which killed five St. John members, the Great Depression, World War II and every crisis up to the present time.
He quoted psalm after psalm to frame that long history in terms of the faith of the congregation and to encourage his people to rely on that “faith of our fathers” to get them through the current pandemic.
Elder Sean Blaylock also referred to the psalms to explain how the members of the Forest Park Baptist Church were receiving both the comfort and the courage to get through this difficult time, quoting Psalm 91 in particular:
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
My God, in whom I trust.
Fr. Stan Kuca, St. Bernardine’s pastor, said, “The message is very simple: We are the Easter people and we believe that the risen Lord is with us in our hardships in the same way he was present in the lives of those who first believed after His resurrection.”