Shepherding the flock through troubling times, local pastors respond to the coronavirus


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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – This weekend, perhaps for the first time ever, all of the places of worship throughout Columbus will not be allowed to hold services. That’s because no groups larger than ten can gather because of the concerns about the coronavirus.

News 3’s Phil Scoggins reached out to some local pastors to see how they are shepherding their flock through these troublesome times.

The parking lots of places of worship throughout Columbus will sit eerily empty this weekend, as pastors are plunged into dealing solely with a virtual congregation.

Pastor Paul Thomas will face an empty view from his pulpit Sunday morning at Evangel Temple.

However, his church members won’t go spiritually hungry through this coronavirus crisis. They can access a pre-recorded sermon that will be streamed at regular service times each week.

“My number one piece of advice would be relax, turn to the source of peace, reflect on Him, and then respond like He tells us to,” says Pastor Thomas. “Respond to your neighbors with love and compassion.”

Rabbi Beth Schwartz had to cancel tonight’s service at Temple Israel. But the communication lines with her members will be wide open.

“I will be sending a message for the sabboth each shabbat, which for our viewers now is tonight. And shabbat is a time of not just physical rest but spiritual rest,” says Rabbi Schwarts. “And I think the spirit of shabbat can be very helpful, a helpful thing to reach for right now…to look for opportunities to reflect, to find spiritual sustenance regardless of what your beliefs are. To take a break, to read, to study, to take a walk, to appreciate what is around us.”

Vince Allen is the senior pastor at The Bridge Church in Columbus. His services are live-streamed each Sunday morning. This past Sunday was his final sermon for awhile with members in the pews to give him an amen.

News 3 reached out to Pastor Allen via FaceTime to ask him what message he has for his church during this crisis.

“God said we should fear no evil because He’s with us,” says Pastor Allen. “And so, we have a huge task, but I know that God has walked us through plagues and pandemics before. We’ve seen them in the Bible. And the Bible said there’s nothing new under the sun. So what he delivered His children, the children of Israel through, even in the Old Testament, He is prepared to deliver us through this.”

Pastor Jimmy Elder will step into the pulpit at First Baptist Church in Columbus Sunday..but TV lights will be the only things staring back. His online message will parallel what other pastors have shared.

“The scripture teaches He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow forever,” says Pastor Elder. “And that’s exactly what this is about. It’s about our understanding that while the world changes, and while there are uncertainties in the world, there is certainty in the Lord, and He never changes. And He is just as present in a time of crisis as he is in a time of joy.”

Rabbi Beth Schwartz with Temple Israel prayed a prayer for these anxious times:

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumolt of the ecomonic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

You can watch it here:

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