The already challenging job of the pastor is even more so courtesy of the coronavirus. This outbreak means the live interaction craved by church members is put on hold, which also leads to a big concern over finances.
“We are being forced to be creative when it comes not just to worship but pastoral care, and congregational connection.
Dr. Kimberly Ridley, pastor of the 200 member Light Community Church in Richmond, Virginia moved their service online last Sunday.
“The way that we deal with people who have needs - we have to totally think outside of the box,” Ridley said. “In some ways, it’s great because the church was never about the building."
But unexpected challenges are growing in this time of social distancing and reduced group size.
“We can’t go to the hospitals if somebody gets sick,” Ridley said. “If someone has a situation at their home you have to be very careful before you enter someone’s home because you don’t want to make any kind of negative connection even if you don’t feel sick. God forbid there is a loss and you have to determine what to do in the case of a funeral. It really is a day by day, individual, prayerful decision that has to be made.”
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To add to it, those choices can be questioned as when it came to closing the church doors.
“There was debate over if you’re open, is that supposed to be an act of faith - if you closed, are you afraid?” Ridley said.
“I do feel the pressure I know that other pastors feel that same pressure that regardless of what you do, somebody is going to say that’s not right...you shouldn’t be doing that.”
Then comes the finances. While parishioners may have tighter budgets because of virus-induced layoffs, church leaders face the same budgetary concerns.
“When the doors of the church are closed and people are not coming into the building, we are already realizing the giving is going to go down,” Ridley said. “This is the time for the church to really step up and support even in the times when the church has a need.”
Pastor Ridley says one of the most important things she can do is to remind people to rely on God and love each other like never before.
“You can’t say that you’re a person of faith and then everything that comes out of your mouth is doom and gloom. You have to find some kind of way to believe that something good is going to come out of this - that we’re going to be better after this!”
Ridley also says mental health issues because of quarantine and isolation is a concern. She says pastors may want to consult mental health professionals on how to best help their members.
Also, she is regularly collaborating with other pastors and government officials as everyone figures out how to navigate this new world order.