NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– Our faith is tested during the coronavirus epoch. Places of worship, for weeks have been utilizing a new way to have service. For the over three hundred thousand protestant churches in the United States, faith is defined as the substance for things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. However, what is visible when looking at a 2020 church service, are scores of empty pews filled with the spirits of absent congregation members. This is a time in human history, where virtual service for safety is the new normal.
Bishop Samuel Blakes of New Home Temple says “I’m accustomed to the amens and hallelujahs; but you don’t receive them from the camera or musician as I go into my sermon. Nowadays I’ve had to learn to not preach to the camera but through the camera, but on the other side of this is glory. I believe the church will not be diminished by this, but now we as faith leaders have an opportunity. God has an altar in every home now!” Bishop Leroy Phoenix Sr. of New Home Family Worship Center, reflects on past hardships of the city of New Orleans and wishes he could do more to help his members through the coronavirus. “Faith isn’t supposed to lay down during these times, it’s supposed to grow. Last week, I woke up out of my sleep and I tapped my wife and I said this is really starting to effect me,” says Bishop Phoenix. Churches are not exempt from the reality of society as tides and money are not flowing into them as they were weeks ago. The normal concerns of the community are now exaggerated as unemployment is high, along with sickness and desperation. But any pastor well worth their weight in gold will tell anyone that even in a full bag of anguish there is always room for a mustard seed.
The goal of the shepherd is to watch over the sheep. However, it is a lot more challenging to manage a flock when the flock is socially distant. Therefore, the goal of virtual service is to bring the same power through the lens of technology. Churches are doing just that with the use of apps like Zoom, Facebook and old-fashioned phone calls. Bishop Phoenix says that even with empty seats in front of him, he has to “preach like the church is full.” That mentality is proving to be effective as all across the country, as people are tuning in to the computer to find a spiritual haven amidst a global pandemic.
Simply put, the doors of the church are open, even when the actual physical doors are closed. Regardless of whatever religion or lack there of an individual may subscribe to; hope in tomorrow is universally needed and it may very well be part of the potent medicine that will help us through any crisis.