I find myself walking into empty church sanctuaries, sitting and spending time alone. It is peaceful. I pray and I am comforted.
I have great childhood memories of going to church. I felt welcome and loving adults made me feel they had been expecting me. Warm smiles, hugs and, of course, cookies and juice were always waiting.
It wasn’t easy being still in “big” church some Sundays, but I do not remember the adults around me ever making me feel unwanted. I sat by my mom and doodled in a notepad while hymns and readings from scripture washed over me.
Before ever walking down a center aisle of a church, the path forward to accept Christ into my life was prepared by loving Sunday school and choir teachers, by volunteers who brought stories of Jesus to life during Vacation Bible Schools.
As a child, I heard the proclamation of the Word by a pastor with a long list of theological degrees, a bivocational one with no degree who raised his family by working in the marketplace while shepherding his flock, and a “born again” Cajun pastor from south Louisiana. I listened as the net of salvation’s story was cast from the loftiest pulpits to the pulpit made of yellow pine that was in front of the hand-painted River Jordan that ran into the baptistry waters where I was plunged and raised to new life.
It’s not hard to understand that during these days of uncertainty that I find solace beneath a steeple. In the quiet, alone with God, I feel my heart beating and –– while others in hospitals are struggling to find a breath –– I hear my breath as I inhale and exhale. Time is suspended. The world’s noise is pushed beyond the walls of my refuge.
As perfect as this setting is, however, it would only be an empty building without the promise that He is with me: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The restriction on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the coming together of church families. And despite the difficulty in finding anything to replace the warmth and closeness, churches have creatively found new ways to gather for worship. The resilience of the church is seen as congregations continue ministering to those in spiritual and physical need, financially providing for staff members, and supporting mission commitments.
There is also a renewed focus on quiet time with God. Just like sitting in a sanctuary alone, we can feel closeness to God sitting in our homes. In the midst of silence, we can draw near to Him.
Sadly, it takes a jolt to cause us to stop. But as we pause during these days of solitude, look into His eyes and hear Him say: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Article Written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor