Written by: Sister Ashley Dunn
The beginning of 2020 brought changes that affected the world. The introduction of the coronavirus COVID-19 (respiratory virus) in January started a chain reaction across the globe. By March, its subsequent spread and resulting infection rate prompted the World Health Organization(WHO) to officially declare COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Countries began to enact laws and health ordinances to curve the spread which resulted in closure of almost everything that was not deemed essential.
Public places where people gathered were looked at as prime situations for the virus to spread. By April, GA governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order to shelter in place. Due to this and the desire to not add to the growing infection rate Friendly Church of God in Christ closed its doors after March 22nd service.
Life as most knew it came to an abrupt halt. With the school system, businesses and even the churches closed until further notice nothing was normal about everyday life.
The Center for Disease Control(CDC) and public health departments across the United States urged for limited contact and introduced terms that would become a motto throughout the following months- quarantine and social distancing.
What does social distancing look like in a church? At a time when everything is at a distance it is so important for the church to proclaim that Jesus is near. So Friendly
C.O.G.I.C. went virtual. What if you cannot grab your pew neighbor’s hand for prayer in church? You and your neighbor can call in via phone conference to pray. If you cannot come to church? Then you view church services online.
Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube became the main vehicles to reach the congregation. Sunday services were available to view on YouTube every Sunday in the beginning months of quarantine. Later, when national and state restrictions were eased, Sunday service was streamed live from the sanctuary with limited church staff through Facebook. This gave members an opportunity to respond and comment online during praise & worship as well as the sermon. Tuesday night bible study was also streamed with Facebook and YouTube. Sunday school was formatted to be interactive by conference call every Sunday morning.
Friendly offered opportunities to pray as well. In addition to the pre-COVID19 Tuesday and Thursday morning Friendly prayer line, Pastor and Lady Boyd added a call-in prayer in August for every second Wednesday of the month.Many of the traditional and annual events for the national Church of God in Christ, jurisdiction and local church were canceled. Events and services that were not canceled were held virtually using internet video conference, social media live streams, or phone conference calls.
On April 25th several members along with the Missions Department and the Y.W.C.C.(PBJ & Jesus campaign) masked and gloved up to do community food outreach. They repeated this event on August 29th in conjunction with the annual School Supply Giveaway.
Friendly hosted several annual services virtually and started new ones. Pastor’s Anniversary, Church Anniversary and the Youth Revival were all streamed through Friendly’s Facebook page. In July, a virtual video Financial Planning series was started to relay beneficial finance information to help members. The series has been a monthly presentation.
During July church leadership, using CDC and health department guidelines, prepared the church for reentry. In early August, Sunday service converted to a drive-in style. Members were able to maintain distance by staying in their vehicles as service was held in the parking lot. Then on August 30th church reopened for Sunday services and bible study (moved from fellowship hall to sanctuary) with social distancing and sanitizing protocols in place. However, in late October, due to a rise in the infection rate numbers, Friendly closed again for the remainder of 2020.
As fall came events were still happening. On October 9th, the Women’s Dept. hosted Hour of Prayer via conference call. Closing out the month, on Oct 30th Kid’s Hallelujah Night provided a way for Friendly youth to tune in through virtual video.
Social distancing has shown what a gift it was to walk through the doors every Sunday, hold hands in prayer, greet each other with a hug, and “tell your neighbor” during the sermon. This year proved that the church isnot just the building and it must be able to thrive outside the four walls. Though the building may be closed, the church is still open.