I was sitting at my desk contemplating the health crisis and the dramatic change in everyday life for everyone. Thoughts of concern for everyone’s well-being, the uncertainty of what will transpire in the next few weeks, the condition of those who have contracted the virus, those who have lost loved ones, the most at-risk and whether or not they have a network of support to help them, all came very quickly. What words of encouragement and hope could be offered when a great heaviness has fallen on all people in all places?
In the midst of my thoughts, the Pandora station to which I was listening played a portion of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” to which Henry van Dyke set his words, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” I thought about a performance of that hymn in the film Sister Act II, located a video of it YouTube and watched it. Listening to this hymn and the joy with which it is performed lifted my spirit and reminded me that although the circumstances of life are currently different than we have ever known there is still reason for hope. Whether or not you watch this video, I encourage you to find those things to watch, read, listen to, or do, that will break your continual focus on the health crisis.
Certainly, we want to be informed and act responsibly for the well-being of ourselves and of others, but to do so within reason and as directed by leaders in the health and medical fields. Pray for those who have been affected most directly, those providing medical care and research, leaders deciding and implanting policy, and those who are the most vulnerable.
Along with church leadership, we decided that all gatherings on site at SSBC are now cancelled until further notice. We will continue to worship together via livestream at 11:00 a.m. Sunday. I encourage you to join your church family via livestream for worship.
Contact me or the church office if you know of any members who may need some assistance. Also, please contact those in your Sunday School class so that everyone will maintain a connection and know there are those able and willing should assistance be needed.
Please take precautions and stay well.
This Sunday is the third in our Lenten Journey of Renewal. You have been encouraged to spend time in prayer and personal reflection; however, I am very well aware that such focus is more difficult than usual given the continual flood of news and updates concerning Covid-19. I receive a number of emails and updates daily concerning the number of cases and what health officials and others are doing to manage the concerns for health and safety. One thing very apparent, though, is that all the news received contains information about what to do for your physical well-being, (see the links below) but little is said about how we maintain our spiritual well-being. The truth is that though we can take all precautions from the CDC that are recommended, there is little we can do individually that will alter the situation globally except pray. We can, however, spend the time constructively by acknowledging that things are as they are and being in prayer for people around the world who are directly affected by this virus now. We can pray that God will help us clear our minds, control our imaginations and focus on what Lent can be for us spiritually.
Below is a list you may find helpful as we all watch and pray concerning the Coronavirus. This includes some steps we have taken at SSBC as well as some resources for you.
- Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we encourage anyone who is symptomatic to stay home except to get medical care. You may follow these links for more information from the CDC’s website:
– Prevention and Treatment
– What to Do if You are Sick
- We encourage basic hygiene practices, such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Maintenance staff have installed extra hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout our campus.
- Be considerate of those who may prefer not to shake hands before, during, or after worship or other gatherings.
- Be attentive and compassionate to fellow members, friends, and neighbors who are more vulnerable to infection, including older adults and those with pre-existing conditions, those without health-insurance, as well as those who may be affected by income loss due to quarantines or workplace closures.
- During the Passing of the Peace in worship, we will invite the congregation to do so verbally rather than by shaking hands.
Grace and peace,
It is a new month, a new season in the Christian year and spring is right around the corner. Were it not for the uncertainty of how significantly the Coronavirus will affect the lives of individuals globally and the confusing political landscape we are experiencing in all aspects of government, we might be able to feel a little more relief by knowing the that the worst of the cold wet weather of winter is behind us as new life is already seen in emerging buds. Yet, we are all reminded that even though we do all we can to affect outcomes in a positive way, the small arena in which we feel we have a little influence and control is always subject to factors over which we have no control. Yesterday morning, we awoke to hear that at least 19 individuals died in tornadoes in Tennessee and that the total deaths worldwide from the Coronavirus is at 3,110 according to the World Health Organization. One can become overwhelmed with such news feeling helpless and insignificant. However, we can offer prayers for the families of all the victims, for the sick or injured, medical personnel, research scientists, government leaders and first responders. And, as opportunities to aid in more tangible ways become evident, engage and and participate in relieving the pain and suffering as you are able. Take time today, if possible as you read this, to stop and spend a few minutes in prayer.
Tonight when we gather for prayer and Bible study, we will join our hearts, minds and spirits in a time of prayer for these concerns and for the many members, family members and friends who are facing difficulties. I encourage you to participate with your family of faith in prayer and to join us for the Bible Study that begins at 6:15 p.m. Henry Hobson is leading us in a study of the Apostle Peter. This week’s session will examine the text of Matthew 16:13-18, in which Peter states to Jesus, “You are the Christ.” However, Peter’s reluctance to accept that Jesus must suffer draws the stern rebuke, “Get behind me Satan.” The first two sessions have been excellent, and we have benefited from the study and the discussion.
During Lent, I want to make a special appeal to all that are able to participate in the brief Thursday evening Communion worship service at 5:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. The music, scripture, prayer, meditation and Holy Communion all lead us to a deeper, more reflective and introspective spiritual journey in which the love, mercy and grace of God is experienced and shared more fully.
Today begins Lent, the forty days plus the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter. These are days of preparation for all believers; preparation that involves prayer, fasting, meditation, reflection, introspection, confession and repentance, all in an effort to see ourselves and the world around us as God does. Tonight at 6:00 p.m., we will gather for an Ash Wednesday Service in the Sanctuary and begin this Lenten journey together. “A Lenten Journey of Renewal” will be the central theme for these forty days. It is important for each of us to be a part of this journey, and it is especially important for us as a church in a period of transition. Our worship and Bible study during Lent is structured to facilitate our hearing and discerning God’s words and will provide guidance for us both personally and as a family of faith, prompting us to respond by doing good things for each other and the world, loving others as Christ has loved us.
I look forward to beginning this Lenten Journey of Renewal with you as we worship together this evening.
The apostle Peter is the subject of the Wednesday evening study for the next six weeks, with the one exception of the Ash Wednesday Service on February 26. Peter was one of three disciples in Jesus’ inner circle along with James and John. Peter’s humanity, fallibility, courage, impulsivity, strengths, weaknesses, faith and faltering are characteristics of a man to whom many of us can really relate. Tonight, Dr. Henry Hobson will lead us in the second session of this series which is entitled, “Peter Walking on the Water…and Sinking” from the Biblical account of the event found in Matthew 14:22-34. I hope you will be present for this insightful study and interesting discussion to follow.
This Sunday, guest preacher Rev. Terri Byrd will fill the pulpit and deliver a homily entitled “Something New” using as her text Acts 10:1-23. Rev. Byrd is the Alabama State Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and has been with us on several prior occasions. I encourage you to be present for worship this Sunday and prayerfully hear Rev. Byrd as we celebrate the Lord’s Day together through prayers, hymns of praise, and words of proclamation.
I look forward to our worshipping together.
On this wet and dreary day, I want to remind you of some good things happening at SSBC that will hopefully lift your spirit. We plan to have several guests preachers fill the pulpit over the next few months. This Sunday, Dr. Henry Hobson will preach in the worship service. Dr. Hobson, an active member of Southside, has preached here several times before. Dr. Hobson has pastored churches in Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana, He is currently a hospice chaplain with Compassus in Birmingham. On February 23, Rev. Terri Byrd will preach at Southside. Terri is the Alabama State Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Terri has also filled the pulpit on occasion at SSBC. I hope you will be present and prayerfully hear Dr. Hobson and Rev. Byrd when they preach. Each has inspired us and challenged us when filling the pulpit on previous occasions.
Additionally, this Wednesday evening, Dr. Henry Hobson will begin a study on the life and faith of Simon Peter. This six-session study will focus on the person, the struggles and the successes Simon Peter experienced in his faith journey. I hope you will make plans to attend the first session of this series Wednesday evening following Fellowship Supper and Prayer Time.
We will continue our Wednesday evening study and discussion of Baptist Beliefs, but this week we’ll focus on values that we at SSBC, a community of Believers, hold to be indispensable if we are to be the presence of Christ in this community and beyond. We will use our Mission Statement, and Who We are at Southside statement in our discussion. I hope you will be present for this time of discussion and offer you thoughts and insights. Join your church family at 5:30 p.m. for Fellowship Supper, followed by a time of prayer prior to the Bible Study. Your presence is important in our continued efforts to encourage and support one another and share the love, grace and mercy we have received from Jesus the Christ.
Every Thursday at 12:00 p.m., Charlie Waldrep leads a Men’s Bible Study and lunch. A group of a dozen or so are usually in attendance, and there is always room for more. Then at 5:30 p.m., a group gathers in Memorial Chapel for a brief time of worship. There is music, prayer, and meditation followed by Holy Communion as the service ends. This quiet time of prayer helps many of us put life in perspective when there are so many distractions and concerns on every front.
I look forward to seeing those able to attend any, or all, of the times we gather this week.