It is ironic that the church all around the world had their doors closed to public worship on Pentecost Sunday. The irony lies in the fact that Pentecost is the day the Church was born. The Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, as at all Pentecost times in those days, the Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire to celebrate the festival of Pentecost. Those people spoke many different languages. When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples they spoke in many languages as the Spirit enabled them. The people heard the disciples speaking in their own languages, even though the disciples were Galileans and knew perhaps only one language, or two. Speaking in tongues, the disciples proclaimed the “mighty deeds of God”. Three thousand people were baptized that day after they heard Peter’s sermon. The church was born that day.
The COVID-19 pandemic, has for all intent and purposes, brought the entire world to an abrupt slow down if not halt since March of this year. The Church had to close their doors to public worship and any kind of gatherings. Churches responded to this forced but necessary closure by turning to the internet, social media and various other ways to reach people with the gospel and continue to provide spiritual nurture and care. Nevertheless people miss the public gatherings to worship, fellowship, study the bible, pray and the many other things people do at church. The question being asked is, “When will we be able to gather again in church like we did in normal times?” At this time it looks like not until September at the earliest.
The church is being affected in many ways, both positive and negative, by this pandemic. One of the positive things is that the church will begin to use the internet and social media more effectively and widely in its mission and ministry. Negatively, the shut- down will cause many congregations to enter into a financial crisis, from which many will find it difficult to recover, at least for a long time to come. No matter what happens the Church will survive this pandemic.
The Church has faced crises before. It is no stranger to persecution, oppression and suppression by the powers that be. In its 2000 years of history the church weathered the storms of wars, plagues, divisions and more. It is still here, even after empires have risen and fell. It will be here to the end. Christ Jesus, the lord of the church promised that, “…Not even the gates of hell shall prevail against his church.” You can bank on that promise.
In time Bethesda, like other churches, will reopen its doors for worship and all the things we do as people of God. We shall have learnt that our freedom to worship is a gift and should not be taken for granted. We shall weather the storm and be back together, stronger in faith, fellowship, purpose and our life together as a congregation. Stay safe.