This year has been one of the most complex and confusing in all of my years of pastoral ministry. Never did I consider that we would close our building for four months and move to online services only.
We had decided to cancel our Sunday morning services at Queen Street Baptist Church even before the government required this of us. Not only do we have a significant number of seniors, we also have people with disabilities.
Some younger and able bodied people had been dismissing COVID-19 as not being dangerous to them but we as a congregation wanted to demonstrate that all were valued, regardless of age or underlying conditions. Our leadership felt good about the protection we were providing our people.
I did not find the pandemic all that difficult. As an introvert, the lack of contact with larger groups was rather refreshing. I definitely was not lonely, with my wife and three children home all day long. If anything, there were times I was peopled out just with my family home all the time.
There were even pleasant days during the pandemic. My wife and I would often grab a coffee and go for long car rides. We would explore the areas around our city and enjoy the beautiful sights. The experience was quite nice.
Meanwhile, there were people in our congregation that were eager to reopen the church building. The online services were fine, but they were craving human contact.
Initially I fought against this. Not only do I have a compromised immune system, it was my responsibility to protect the elderly and those with disabilities. Someone needed to stand up for their needs.
But then I actually talked to the people I was trying to protect. While I was enjoying my coffee and car rides with my wife, some of my people were stuck at home alone, often with no access to our online services.
It was as I listened to a woman in our congregation who is blind and has mobility limitations, who tried hard not to complain, that I realized that emotional and social needs were just as important. A man in our congregation with a developmental disability would call me every day, often asking when our building would be open.
Personally, I would be fine if the building stayed closed for another month or two. But that would be based on the many advantages that I enjoy. There are those in different life circumstances that need the church building open.
We still are concerned about safety and we are working hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but we also are going to provide a place for worship and community for all who need it.
Stephen J Bedard