In many ways it feels like more than two and half months have passed since the CBFNC Coordinating Council made the difficult decision on March 10 to cancel this year’s Annual Gathering because of the looming pandemic. Little did we know on that day that most of our churches would not gather in-person the following Sunday, March 15.
Since then, pastors and other worship leaders have worked tirelessly to provide alternatives to in-person worship utilizing online platforms during this season of physical distancing. Within a couple of weeks, every church was providing some form of online worship experience for their congregations. In many cases, more people have been participating in these services than typically attend Sunday worship gatherings in the sanctuary.
As of today (May 20), many congregations have conducted online worship for 10 Sundays, in addition to numerous other online gatherings held throughout each week. Few of us could have predicted in mid-March that we would be worshipping this way for this long.
This shift to online worship has created extra work and stress for worship leaders. There are many hours spent “behind the scenes” preparing and formatting online worship and gatherings each week. After almost three months of this, many of our pastors and worship leaders need a Sabbath to rest and recharge their mental, emotional and spiritual batteries.
We Are Here to Help
Under normal circumstances, CBFNC can be found on most Sundays speaking in partner churches. Our invitations range from providing pulpit supply while the pastor is away to providing a sermon or presentation on a particular topic relevant to the life of the church.
Now we have entered the phase where churches are struggling with the decision of when to resume in-person gathering. We all look forward to that time, but the best scientific guidance cautions that we should do so very carefully and with a very intentional plan that considers a wide variety of factors. For many congregations, the best course of action will be to delay gathering again in-person for quite a long time to come.
Whether you gather in-person or continue to worship online (or both), please consider inviting CBFNC staff to participate as guest worship leaders. Our offerings might include the following:
- Pulpit supply to give the pastor a rest
- Preaching on an assigned topic even if the pastor is also participating in worship that day
- Providing a “Missions Moment” on one or more of our cooperative ministries
- Leading a children’s sermon
- Providing a greeting and brief word of encouragement from CBFNC
- Leading in prayer for the congregation and its community
Another way pastors and worship leaders might take a break points back to perhaps the most important description of our fellowship: cooperative. Why not consider cooperating with other churches in your community or across our state to do a sermon swap or to share the load in other ways?
Rev. Patrick Cardwell, pastor of Lindley Park in Greensboro, shared this sermon swap example with us where he and Rev. David Brooks, pastor of Edenton Baptist, are swapping sermons. This is a great example of cooperation across our fellowship and our state because the two churches involved are not in the same city, or even the same region.
Patrick shares that preaching can be both a joyful and an arduous calling, particularly more of the latter in the midst of a pandemic. “I’ve been preaching every week and adapting worship to an online format as best I can, but I was still worn out two weeks ago. And in the current format, I didn’t want to ask a guest preacher to drive to Greensboro (or even across town!) to fill the pulpit, “ he said.
“So, given that everything is virtual and online now, David Brooks, pastor of Edenton Baptist, and I did a virtual sermon swap! He sent us his sermon and pastoral prayer for May 17, which meant I had this week off for Sabbath and rest. Next week, I’ll send my sermon to them so he can have a week of rest and Sabbath,” said Patrick.
He says he wanted to share this example because it worked well for both pastors and may work well for others across the state who are looking for a brief respite. “It particularly embodies the power of networking to create greater health across congregations, even during COVID-19. I’m also planning to use it as a small illustration of the unity Jesus prays for in John 17,” adds Patrick.
By now, it’s obvious that we will not return to our “old normal” for a very long time, if ever. Pastors and worship leaders will need to establish new rhythms to enable them to stay fresh and healthy for the long haul. Such breaks should include breaks from sermon preparation and weekly worship leadership, even when that worship is conducted online.
Please call on your CBFNC staff to help. We are here for you and are eager to resume this aspect of our ministry, regardless of the format. Contact our office by phone at 336.759.3456 or find our staff emails on our website HERE.