COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the lives of the members of the Atlantic Union Conference and the members of our surrounding communities. Hundreds of lives have been lost within the membership of our churches, and thousands of lives have also been lost within the communities we serve. This situation has resulted in the closing of most of our churches and, even though many have reopened, we have had to find new ways to minister to our members.
Using technology and various media platforms has allowed us to stay in touch with most of our members virtually. However, there is a large percentage of our members who are not engaged in church-related activities. The reduction of in-person worship has caused many members to become disconnected from these church activities. We need to make an all-out effort to encourage them to get reconnected and re-engaged.
We particularly need to pay attention to the younger population of our churches, since it appears that most of the older members have remained committed throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, we all need to be vigilant in seeking after those who are less involved to ensure that none are lost.
As administrators, departmental directors, pastors, and lay leaders, we have the sacred responsibility to nurture the members and serve the community. In the Gospel of John, the narrative is recorded showing Jesus restoring Peter after he had denied Christ three times (John 21:15-19). Jesus admonished Peter three times, saying that if he loved Him, he should feed His lambs and sheep. This is an opportune time in which, as leaders in God’s church, we are to focus on feeding the “lambs” (our youth) and “sheep” who have been entrusted to our care.
Jesus also set the perfect example of how we are to relate to the communities we serve. Ellen G. White, in her counsel to the church, said: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
At this time, we are unable to freely mingle in person with our brothers and sisters within the churches and with those we serve in the communities. However, we must find alternate, safe ways to minister to their needs so that we can earn their confidence. Thank God that there are many within the Atlantic Union who are reaching out to fellow members and to those in their communities who have been affected by this pandemic.
During this time of great adversity and challenge, we need to be intentional about encouraging and caring for the members of our churches and for our communities. Through acts of kindness, we need to demonstrate that we are the “hands and feet” of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ is best preached, not just by words but by showing love to each other, including our neighbors. Jesus rightly said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”—John 13:35 (NKJV).
This pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our Atlantic Union family. Many lives have been lost, and families have been greatly affected. Let us continue seeking wisdom from God to determine the best way we can serve our membership and the community. “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history”—Life Sketches of Ellen White, p. 196.