The first day of autumn is here, and I am grateful. It is a favorite time of the year for many and for good reasons like milder temperatures and the change in the landscape as colors emerge with brilliant clarity. Each year I look forward to seeing what wonders will be observed in God’s magnificent creation, and each year I realize that my mind cannot adequately hold and recall the true splendor of all I see and have seen. I think that the seasonal change this fall, maybe more than any other, will do wonders in restoring the vitality to life that so many need. The pandemic has drained our energy and optimism and lulled us into mental and emotional malaise. We need the cooler weather to awaken and refresh us, quickening our pulse while reminding us that we are alive and able to experience this wonderful creation. Just the thought gives me renewed hope and beckons me to consider the great privileges and blessings I enjoy. I hope you will join me and focus on the opportunities we have to appreciate the precious blessings we experience and enjoy, all coming from the love, mercy and grace of God.
We are all closely watching weather reports this week as Hurricane Sally makes landfall on the Gulf Coast and moves across the southeastern U.S. The reports bring to mind those directly in the path of this storm and prompt us to pray that the damage from the wind, storm surge and flooding will not be too destructive and that precautions taken will prevent the loss of lives. All weather related events for most of 2020, severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, are shrouded in the reality and threat of COVID-19. With this ever-present heaviness brought on by the pandemic, any additional hardship only further threatens and complicates lives of the victims. It can be the tipping point for those severely affected making them feel even more isolated and some losing all hope. Many of you are already praying for those who have experienced great loss from these disasters. I encourage you and others to join in a concerted effort to pray specifically for these victims and, as news comes forth on ways to help, to consider how you can give to relieve some of the pain and fear. Your prayers and your participation in relief efforts, along with others, may be that which restores the faith and hope to those most severely affected.
Wednesday evening in the Zoom meeting for prayer and study, we will pray for these and others on our prayer list.
I hope you will log in to this online gathering to encourage one another and to consider ways to offer encouragement and help to our neighbors next door and those across the country.
Life goes on while we live in a strangely different time. Minimized and streamlined daily routines to reduce the risks related to COVID-19 do not eliminate other life events, expected and unexpected, that come our way. A newly married young adult diagnosed with cancer, a fellow church member’s elderly mother passing away after a fall, the progression of a disease that diminishes one’s independence, the depression that creeps in and engulfs one like a dark, heavy cloud with no easy way to catch a glimmer of light. And then there are those wonderful events such as a the first day of school, graduation, a wedding, the birth of a child and while still celebrated, it seems as though not fully celebrated. Life goes on! We miss the rich fellowship and support that our church family interacting face-to-face provides. We glean as much as possible from the online meetings, for which we are grateful, but we look forward to the day we can worship together in the same space. In the meantime, we are tasked with maintaining the spirit and fellowship of our church family by reaching out to one another and praying for each other. A question that I was asked recently and that we might each ask ourselves is this: How important is your church to you in this pandemic? Please think about this question, and when we gather Wednesday for Prayer and Bible Study, we will discuss some of the responses.
The Psalm reading for this Sunday begins with words which speak to us at all times.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
All that is within, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits. (Ps.103:1-2)
I look forward to seeing those all to participate in the Zoom meeting Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.
The link for the meeting is included below.
Meeting ID: 876 3757 9395
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We start a new month and still we find ourselves in an in-between state. We are alive, and for the most part well, but our focus is very different than it was a year ago as the familiar feelings, sights and sounds of summer vacation coming to an end, a new school year and a college football season beginning are so radically different. In the days of March through August, we learned a great deal about ourselves, some good things and some not so good. Although we are not through the pandemic, we have learned how to function with less and with limited or no access to things we thought we couldn’t live without. The human spirit is amazingly resilient, and I am confident we will see evidence of this as we push ahead toward a day when a vaccine is available that will finally help us move beyond this pandemic.
One fact that was obvious before but is even more apparent now, is that we really do need each other. People around us, family, friends, and co-workers, need the awareness and assurance of others to whom they are very significant. Community, whether large or small, is important and vital for each of us. Take a moment today to think about those that are important to you and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for them. Almost daily, I receive word from someone expressing concern about a member or a neighbor’s well-being. If you are aware of someone having a need that we can help meet, please share that with the church office so that together we can give expression to the love of God with us, by encouraging and assisting those within our family of faith and in our community.
This Wednesday evening in our mid-week Zoom meeting, we will discuss the importance of community and how it has taken on a new significance for many. I hope you will join us to be a part of this discussion and in our time of prayer. The login information is included below.
Meeting ID: 876 3757 9395
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+13126266799,,87637579395#,,,,,,0#,,253637# US (Chicago)
Each week a few volunteers and our church staff work diligently to make sure the worship service available via livestream is spiritually uplifting and provides a connection for you to your church family. I understand that a livestream service is not the same as being present; however, I hope the visual of the sanctuary, the music, the scripture, prayers and homily help you as you worship from your home until the time when we are able to safely worship together in one place.
Other ministries of the church are ongoing as well such as Bible study on Wednesday evening and Sunday morning and our Men’s Bible Study on Thursday at noon, although these are also virtual events. The Food Bank is open every other Thursday from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and is the only ministry taking place onsite, with the exception of those by the non-profits housed at SSBC.
Every person that offers prayers for these efforts, or makes a financial gift, is a part of these ministries. We all want to be ready individually and as a church family to address the needs we see before us now, and when we are able to assemble together again. Please pray for the many needs around us, and give to support these ministry efforts as you feel led.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334
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Meeting ID: 812 4883 3334