TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. (KT) – After eight long weeks, members of Redemption Hill Baptist Church were thankful to finally be gathering in-person for Sunday morning worship services.
“The church has done a wonderful job of keeping us connected through our community groups and services on Sunday via the web,” said Michael Collins. However, being around other Christians and participating in worship together “has been a missing component for me and my family. It’s pretty exciting to be back.”
Collins, who serves as the deacon of First Impressions, arrived early that morning and helped church staff with last-minute preparations, like taping “in” and “out” signs on the building’s glass doors and propping them open so guests need not touch handles.
As members assigned to the first service began to arrive at the Spencer County church, they were greeted by warm hellos and squinting eyes hinting at the smiles hidden under brightly colored masks.
“I think there’s something very special and unique about the church as a body of believers who gather together corporately for singing and talking and loving on each other, even if it’s from a distance,” said Andrew Sorah, who attended Sunday’s service with his wife Alexa. “We’re thankful to be able to use technology, but there’s something very different about being here and being with one another.”
Michelle Gross said the experience was kind of emotional after weeks of watching church services online. “We only have one service normally. It was hard not seeing the other people. That’s the hard part, the social aspect of it.”
Gross’s husband, Mike, agreed. “It was different, but it was great to be back together.”
Redemption Hill Pastor Justin Compton said different will be the keyword when it comes to how the church is configured in the coming weeks and months.
“Most pastors don’t need to be convinced about the importance of meeting together,” said Compton, but in this season of the church “there’s no way to do it without looking different.”
Sure, people will be wearing masks and keeping their distance from other household units as described in the government guidelines. There will be hand sanitizing stations and nothing passed between people, like offering plates and communion trays. But that’s not all. If families are to be included, that means small children will be in the service.
As the father of five children, Compton said he has no problem talking through the sometimes-noisy distractions of little ones. Several toddlers were talking and walking near their parents during Sunday’s early morning service and the pastor fully expected the same to happen at the second service.
“Pastors are going to have to think through what can be trimmed down to make it happen and it may look different” from what members are accustomed to, Compton said.
Also, there is still a large part of the congregation missing as people who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus continue to stay home and watch the service online. Compton said the church will be providing some extra care for folks who are 60 and older. “We’re going to have a lot more personal visits and pastoral care through our community groups.”
He encouraged fellow pastors and church leaders to love their congregations, do the best they can and accept that church is going to need to be different for the foreseeable future.
“I’m hopeful one of the things the Lord is doing in the hearts of His people is building in us a longing. We didn’t realize what we had and we didn’t realize how good it was when we could just come and meet,” Compton said. “I think I saw that today. People were wanting to hug but trying not to hug. What that tells me is there is a bit of that hunger there.”