Our Current “Normal”

It is the last week in the fifth month of the pandemic, and still we wonder when positive news will lighten the heaviness under which we live each day. We hope and pray for the success of vaccine trials which we know are the only sure way to get beyond the effects this virus has on the health of people around the world and the dramatic changes we are all making for the sake of ourselves and others.

The new normal, which has become our routine for the last several months and likely will be for several months ahead, is not at all what we want, but it is what we have. Therefore, we push on in our individual lives, taking care of the critical aspects of life and discovering new ways to enrich our lives and relationships. As a church family, we address the ministries that are a part of our mission to the degree possible and discover new ideas and ways to be the presence of Christ in our community and beyond.

Each Sunday, I remind you of some of the ministry efforts that are on going, and on Wednesday evenings we gather for a time of prayer and Bible study in a Zoom Meeting. Prayers for members of our church family are offered and other concerns related to the ministries of the church are discussed during the study time. If you have concerns or questions, join us for this time of prayer together. It would benefit your church family to hear from you. If your schedule prevents you from joining our virtual gathering, you can email me or the church office.

Our Current “Normal”

A Renewed Appreciation

Worship last Sunday featured the welcomed return of the pipe organ creating a very familiar and comforting feeling which facilitated our experience of worship. The failure of a part that rendered the organ inoperable was replaced; however, obtaining the part and the installation took longer than expected due to the pandemic. The months of absence or limitations of various activities and interests perhaps have reminded us of their enriching values leading us to appreciate them more. I encourage you to give thanks for the blessings so easily taken for granted pre-pandemic. 

The Deacons and the Congregational Council met in a Zoom meeting Monday. The meeting followed the usual agenda, but as it has for the last five months, the effects of the pandemic on members and on the ministries of Southside Baptist Church were at the forefront of discussion. We are all hopeful as we pray that the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths will begin to slow, but until then, the deacons decided it is best to continue with no on-site worship or meetings for our congregation. This will be revisited at the August Deacons meeting. The church staff will continue to do our best to provide a wonderful worship service each week. Please continue to pray for each other and the ministries of SSBC that touch the lives of so many in our community and beyond.

A Renewed Appreciation

How are you managing during this pandemic?

Have you been able to maintain a positive outlook on life while working from home and having limited or no social events to attend? Life is strangely different now, and it looks as though it will remain in some variation of this state for months to come. How can we foster interaction and fellowship among our church family during these times? One way is through the gatherings we have online every Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. The first half of the Zoom meeting each week is a time of discussion related to church family news and prayer concerns. It is an open discussion to determine how to help those most affected by the pandemic, as well as discussing various social concerns, especially those related to social justice and racism. I encourage you to take part in this important opportunity for dialogue. I also encourage you to participate in the virtual Sunday School Class at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings and the Worship Service livestream at 11 a.m.

Our Food Bank will be distributing food this Thursday from 3-5 p.m. If you would like to help in this mission and ministry effort, please contact the church office for details on guidelines for volunteering or for receiving food. The number of families receiving food has increased steadily since mid-May and will likely continue to increase as special assistance with housing and loss of income begins to diminish. You can also take part in helping to support this ministry by giving financially to this cause. 

I look forward to seeing those able to participate in this effort and those able to join one of the virtual meetings this week. 

How are you managing during this pandemic?

More Than Words Alone

Our spirits were uplifted and imbued with hope through the wonderful music provided by the choir last Sunday in worship. We are blessed to have a music ministry with such talented and gifted musicians who, in the midst of this pandemic, have provided a constant presence and consistent message of hope. At a time in our history when many of the trappings of life once thought to be essential have been peeled away, we see the really important realities of life: our relationship with God through Jesus the Christ, our families, and our relationships with our neighbors as we learn to love our neighbor as Christ loves us and as we love ourselves. The message presented in music Sunday spoke to humility, reverence, and attentiveness to God’s presence and activity in the world, and to the promise of God’s awareness and attention to all our needs. This seemed evident to me though some of the comments made in the live chat feature of the livestream broadcast.
Here are a few of them:
   “I came today sad and depressed and I leave uplifted and touched by the sharing of spirit in words and beautiful music. Thank you all for helping me today.”
   “A wonderful message of peace and love for all!!”
   “My heart and soul needed this service today.”
   “A beautiful service.”
These are only a few of the many comments received during the service and in the days following. 

These comments made during the worship service are wonderful examples of how often we are able to use our God-given gifts to be instruments of God’s blessing to others. Think of those you know that may need a word of hope and encouragement, and then follow up by calling or writing them. Your words will bless them and may be the help needed to get them through the day. 

While words of encouragement are good, we know that words alone are not all that is needed. Several of our members are helping with words but also with some very tangible assistance through the food distribution of our Food Bank. Every other Thursday, approximately 80 families receive several bags of food containing a good variety of vegetables, meat, bread and milk. The need continues to grow, however, and we are experiencing an increase in clients each week. If you are able to bless others through a financial gift to the food bank, it will be greatly appreciated and it will go to purchase food for this ever-increasing need. You can make this gift online or by mailing a check to the church office.

Now that we are halfway through another calendar year, I also encourage you to review your regular support of all the ministries of Southside Baptist Church. Even though we are not worshiping on-site, much of the cost of the direct-service social ministries and that of maintaining a presence to provide opportunities for study and worship continue. Please consider your participation in the life and ministry of Southside Baptist Church by giving to support the ministries that honor God and bless those in this community and beyond.  

More Than Words Alone

A Service for Peace and Unity

An agonizing month of personal introspection has left many of us drained emotionally and spiritually. Processing all that we have seen and heard while looking back over our history and recognizing the times we have avoided, or even denied, what we now see clearly leaves us in tremendous need of spiritual inspiration. We need to be drawing closer to God to renew and refresh our spirits with a commitment to live out the Gospel in our community, city, state and nation; proclaiming the love, mercy and grace of God that seeks justice and peace. To that end, a special service is planned for our livestreamed worship on Sunday, June 28. It is a service of music and readings focusing on justice and peace. I hope you will join us for this broadcast and allow the music and words to feed your soul and spirit and to draw all of us closer to God and to one another. I am confident that you will be moved by what you hear.

On Wednesday, we will gather in a Zoom meeting for a time of prayer and discussion. If you have particular prayer requests, please email or call the church office, and we will add those to our weekly prayer list.

I look forward to our time together online in the meetings and through livestream worship.

Wednesday Zoom Meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81248833334?pwd=SEY3czZWYXNobzRoZmlpdWtKU1pkdz09

Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334
Password: 283140
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+13126266799,,81248833334#,,1#,283140# US (Chicago)

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Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334
Password: 283140

A Service for Peace and Unity

An Ignored and Denied Reality

A strange and stressful time is one way to describe the period that began in early March of 2020 and continues even now. Little did most of us know that soon our daily lives would be altered and affected dramatically. As time marched on and our patience grew thin from living through a pandemic, most were praying for some light and hope but came face-to-face with the ugly truth of the reality that we have, for far too long, chosen to ignore, avoid, and even deny its presence. That truth is the racial inequality and injustice that is very real and is perpetuated throughout our culture. There is no way to justify it morally, spiritually or legally. As people of faith, it is imperative for us to find ways to be a part of the solution to eradicate racism. The place to start is within ourselves and with deep introspection to ask God to show us our flaws, our wrong thinking, wrong attitudes and opinions, helping us to see ourselves and others in a new way. One of the forerunners of the civil rights movement in the United States is somewhat obscure compared to the other leaders that usually come to mind. Howard Thurman was an author, philosopher, theologian, educator and mentor to a whole generation of civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr. Thurman was a deeply spiritual person who used his gifts to speak to millions in his lifetime through the written and spoken word, and he continues to do so today through his published writing. This quote from his book, The Luminous Darkness, points one to the deep conviction and calling in his life:
“…[A] strange necessity has been laid upon me to devote my life to the central concern that transcends the walls that divide and would achieve in literal fact what is experienced as literal truth: human life is one and all men are members of one another. And this insight is spiritual and it is the hard core of religious experience.”

I pray that in the days ahead, whatever those days may hold, we will all listen with our hearts and minds and put into practice what God calls us to be and do. 

An Ignored and Denied Reality

Being Intentional and Proactive for Change

The events of the last 10 days have thrown us into an emotional upheaval and a heaviness of heart and spirit. Last week, we watched the video of a man, George Floyd, killed by those sworn to “keep the peace.” The sight was unbelievable, appalling, sickening and enraging. This incident was yet another indication that the undercurrent of racism is very real and present. Sunday morning, in our online gatherings for Sunday School, members shared their feelings and thoughts about what had transpired. Hearing from members of our church family who are black and those who have family members who are black was a poignant reminder of the pain and injury that racism inflicts everyday.

Racism is not something that just appears, it is always present. Racism is a condition of the heart that depreciates the worth of one, or a whole people group, of God’s children who are loved and valued equally by God as any other of God’s children. Racism creates a propensity for us to sin in ways that harms others whether we do so physically, emotionally or mentally. I believe the organizers and most people who attended the protests, rallies and marches intended these events to be peaceful. Were it not for the pandemic, some of us would have attended alongside them. We all see what has and is occurring, but we must check ourselves before jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the violence and destruction. We heard mayors, many of them black, appealing for people to stop the violence and to go home. In each mayor’s appeal was the tone of anger and grief. They expressed what many were feeling as they talked about their city, our city.

We have waited far too long to do what is needed as citizens and more importantly, as followers of the one who came to be with us, redeem us, and demonstrate to us that we are loved and are one in Him. Change that is good does not just happen, it occurs when we are intentional and proactive and with a willingness for our heart to be changed. Oh, how it would bring pleasure to the heart of God for all of God’s children to live and love one another the way God desires us to love and care for one another.

Being Intentional and Proactive for Change

Continuing to be the presence of Christ

The letter sent to everyone last Friday was to inform you that our church leadership believes it is in the best interest of everyone to delay on campus gatherings for study or worship until August. We will continue to do all we can to stay in touch with everyone. Many of you are already notifying the church office of various needs of which you are aware. In the weeks ahead, let us all recommit ourselves to checking on members who come to mind as we reflect on times of corporate study and worship prior to the pandemic. This is a simple but important part of being the presence of Christ in our community. The weekly virtual gatherings will continue for Wednesday prayer and Bible study, Sunday School and Worship. You all have adapted well to this format which keeps us in touch, and even though livestream doesn’t give the opportunity to dialogue verbally, you can send comments in through the online chat option. It was very encouraging to learn that many of you sent words of greeting to the members of  University Baptist Church, Montevallo as they worshiped with us via livestream last Sunday. We were hosting UBC since their pastor, Daniel Stallings, is out on paternity leave. I am convinced that there are more opportunities to reach our community through online events and groups and to promote and publicize the ongoing social ministries done in and through SSBC. If you have ideas or thoughts that will help, please share them. The church staff and leadership are always trying to adapt to these circumstances and continue to be faithful in our mission, relevant to our community, and above all dedicated to God who through his Son has made all things possible through his love, mercy and grace.

Join us online for Prayer and Bible Study in the weekly Zoom meeting this Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. (see the link below). On Sunday, there is a Sunday School Zoom meeting scheduled for  9:45 a.m. the livestream of worship will begin at 11:00 a.m. on SSBC’s YouTube channel. The Sunday School and livestream link will be sent in an email on Friday.
Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81248833334?pwd=SEY3czZWYXNobzRoZmlpdWtKU1pkdz09

Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334
Password: 283140
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,81248833334#,,1#,283140# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,81248833334#,,1#,283140# US (New York)

Continuing to be the presence of Christ

Plans for Reopening

The prudent approach to the gradual reopening and resuming activities of businesses and organizations, including churches, should be one of cautious optimism after some very careful preparation. At least that is my opinion based on reports and in talking with other church leaders throughout the country. Research data indicates that large gatherings of people in a confined space, such as a worship service, does pose a greatly increased risk of someone contracting the virus. A congregation worshiping in a confined space for an hour, where a significant part of that hour involves a choir and congregational singing increases the risk factor dramatically even when practicing prescribed social distancing. We all want to resume worship with the building open to the public as soon as possible; however, the consensus of our leadership is that the earliest date we would reopen for worship is June 7, 2020. We will continue to monitor the situation and prayerfully consider the best and safest plan for the coming months. In the meantime, you can login or call in to the Zoom meetings held each Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m., and on Sunday mornings at 9:45 a.m.

The Wednesday evening meeting is a time of prayer and updates on how everyone is coping followed by a brief Bible study and reflection on one of the texts for the coming Sunday. On Sunday morning, the meeting is a Bible Study led by Rusty Bennett. Rusty does a great job of guiding us through the Sunday School lesson. I hope you will consider joining us for these times of virtual gathering. Of course, each Sunday the worship service is livestreamed on our YouTube channel. This Sunday, the texts are Psalm 66: 8-20 and John 14: 15-21. The primary focus of the homily is John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands,” and what that means in living our lives as a followers of Christ even in the midst of a pandemic. 

Please continue checking on and staying in contact with your fellow church members. Think or those who sat around you in pre-pandemic worship and offer a prayer for them or call them and speak a word of encouragement. Let us all make the best of this period in which we find ourselves.

The links for Wednesday prayer and Bible Study and worship are included below.

Topic: Prayer and Bible Study
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81248833334?pwd=SEY3czZWYXNobzRoZmlpdWtKU1pkdz09

Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334
Password: 283140
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,81248833334#,,1#,283140# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,81248833334#,,1#,283140# US (New York)

Plans for Reopening

Staying Connected

I hoped that we would have a clear path to resuming more of our daily activities and routines four weeks ago, as the month of March was drawing to a close; however, here we are one month later and, while there are some positive results from the mitigation efforts that limited the severity of COVID-19 in many parts of the country, there are still many unanswered questions. Going forward into the month of May, we will continue scheduling virtual meetings and Sunday School while encouraging everyone to worship via livestream by viewing Southside Baptist Church’s YouTube channel at 11:00 a.m. each Sunday. The church building will remained closed for gatherings of large groups until more data is available upon which to make decisions. 

In the meantime, as a church family, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to minister to one another. The phone calls to members and the prayers you offer on behalf of one another are a part of being a church family. Please take a few moments and think about those in your Bible Study, Sunday School Class, or think normally sit near you in worship. Make a list of those you know may be struggling during this period of isolation, and give them a call, send a note and offer a prayer for them. Such a simple act will encourage others and lift your spirit as well.

This Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, we will be celebrating Holy Communion virtually which means you will need to gather your bread and juice/wine for this purpose. Even though we will not be in the same place physically, our hearts and spirits will be as we are united in this Holy observance. 

This evening, we will gather virtually for our weekly prayer and Bible study. I encourage you to log in to this Zoom meeting by following the link below as we offer prayers for those most affected by COVID-19, our members who may be suffering from other illnesses and the many concerns we see all around us everyday. 

Last Monday, April 20, the Deacon Board held their first virtual meeting. During that meeting, concerns and needs of members were discussed and prayers for members and all ministries of the church were offered. Additionally, ways to help everyone stay connected were discussed. One recommendation was presented and approved for the church to receive at the next Church Business Conference. The recommendation was that the title of Interim Choir Director be change to Choir Director for Dr. Kenny Gannon. Dr. Gannon, Ms. Heaslett and the Sanctuary Choir have done a wonderful job of providing worship music each week prior to and during this pandemic. We are blessed to have such a talented music ministry. 

Please remember that many of the missions and ministries of Southside Baptist Church continue even during the pandemic. This week is our week to host the families who are guests with Family Promise. Due to COVID-19, we cannot host them on-site so we are funding a room for them at a local hotel and meals that our volunteers would normally provide. You can help by making a donation to SSBC and designate it for Family Promise. Every other Thursday from 3-5 p.m., volunteers from SSBC and Iron City Church are opening our Food Bank for a “Drive-Thru” food distribution. You can help this ministry with donations to SSBC’s Food Bank. For your convenience, any donation to SSBC for our Operating Budget or any of these special mission causes can be made online by going to our website, Southsidebirmingham.org, and clicking on the Contribute tab.

I look forward to seeing those able to join us this evening for the virtual gathering.

Topic: Bible Study and Prayer
https://zoom.us/j/721052058?pwd=TTNIVXBja2xzaW8rV1FkMldLZG5Wdz09
Meeting ID: 721 052 058
Password: 305092
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,721052058# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,721052058# US (New York)

Staying Connected