In the first century, followers of Christ were very limited on the types of gatherings they could have. A large, boisterous worship service could attract unwanted attention from enemies, and even day-to-day ministry occasionally resulted in riots or civil disruptions which caught the eye of the Roman government.
Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of how the church responded in times of persecution, and ironically, when they had to meet in homes, in smaller settings, or even in secret, the church has thrived. We are not currently being persecuted, but COVID-19 has forced us into smaller settings (or possibly to not leave the house at all), and such measures have resulted in a variety of perspectives: some think we are over-doing it, some think we aren't doing enough, and there is a whole spectrum of opinions in between.
It may be easy to see the downside of the church being unable to all meet together - we don't get to see friends and spiritual family, communication becomes difficult, services and classes must be canceled, giving can become strained, and meeting needs becomes challenging - but I encourage you to consider the upside. If the church has always thrived when it has met opposition, the church can thrive in this situation too.
Yes, it's harder to see people face-to-face, but we have amazing technology at our fingertips. Anyone can use Zoom for free to do video conferencing for small groups, Bible classes, or other meetings (up to 40 minutes in length). Skype offers similar virtual face-to-face options. The ministry staff has used Zoom for our staff meetings so we can all keep up.
Also, as communication has become more difficult, it has stretched us all to be more intentional and proactive in using every available resource to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible. Since I won't be seeing people on Sunday or Wednesday, it pushes me to pick up the phone and call (my greatest fear).
The cancellation of services and classes has also moved everyone to utilize technology more for these types of things. We have Worship Service on Facebook Live Sunday morning, Wednesday night class via Zoom on Wednesday nights, Prayer Circle through a conference call, Children's Ministry emailing materials and hosting Facebook Live lessons. In some ways, Southside is more accessible now than she was before.
One significant downside is the effect this situation has on our donations and giving. Without passing the plate, many of us don't think to offer our weekly contribution, but even while the church is scattered, our financial needs remain. And technology can help with this as well - We encourage you to continue giving through Facebook (www.facebook.com/sscofc) or by mailing a check to the church building (2101 Hemphill St. Fort Worth, TX 76110)
Lastly, when we're forced apart, it's hard to see and meet needs. This could become a downside, but it could also be a huge opportunity for the Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe we could take a moment to look through the church directory and call someone who is older or shut-in to inquire about their needs. Maybe we can share some groceries or supplies with a neighbor. We can help a family member utilize social media to stay connected. We can thank a medical professional during this time or donate blood to help out. We can honor the need for social distancing and still check in with one another.
I encourage you to explore needs in your local community, reach out to those who may be adversely affected, and seek ways to be a healing presence to our city during this chaotic time. Here are some great practical ideas for how to love your neighbor right now: Tips for Loving Your Neighbor During Coronavirus
We may have to stay home, we may not come to the building for class or service, we may have to get creative about how we keep in touch, but no matter what events or interactions get canceled, the Church isn't canceled - you can't cancel a people, and we are people of God!
Follow updates about our COVID-19 plans at https://www.sscofc.org/coronavirus/