Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bermuda Conference administrators, pastors, and members have had to rethink how worship services and other church-related activities are to take place amid physical distancing, curfews, a total shutdown of churches, and shelter-at-home restrictions.
Those challenges, however, have not restricted the creativity of Michael Simmons, Pathfinder director of the Somerset church, who is conducting “virtual” Pathfinder meetings.
Simmons explained that a “virtual” Pathfinder meeting is club time using Zoom and that the inspiration came from interacting with his students at Bermuda College. “I found students were engaged in the topics, even though they were not physically present. That made me think about the Pathfinder club and the potential for online Pathfinder classes. I was most surprised that the shyest students during in-person classes were the most interactive during online classes. I felt that if I could get the Pathfinders to engage online, they could enjoy Pathfinder activities from the comfort of their homes.”
On Sunday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to noon, Pathfinders connect to a Zoom call with Director Simmons and Area Coordinator Emma G. Nisbett. They begin with worship and conduct their meeting as they would in their regular meeting place, the Somerset church hall.
Dressed in complete field uniform, Pathfinders stand at attention for prayer and uniform inspection, followed by scripture readings, which are a part of the investment-level reading for the class. They repeat their aim, motto, and pledge before participating in limited drills of right face, left face, about-face, mark time, and the left quick march.
Director Simmons says the Pathfinders don’t march very far, because they are in confined spaces and have to be within camera range. They also practice halting to make sure they stay in step and are swinging their arms correctly. Additionally, to help maintain physical fitness and to keep them alert, they perform jumping jacks and push-up exercises.
Previous to the shutdown, the Pathfinders worked on obtaining their prayer and cactus honors; this they continue to do. They keep a prayer journal, discuss answered prayers, review different prayers in the Bible, and receive scriptures to read during the week, which is part of their Friends and Companion classes.
To work on their cactus honor, they share their computer screens and use the whiteboard options on Zoom to draw various species of cacti for each other to identify. The children also review life-saving techniques, having just completed the American Heart Association First Aid, CPR, AED certification.
“Virtual Pathfinders is way different,” declares 12-year-old Khymai Richards. “I would rather meet at church. Time seems to go faster at church and I miss the socializing.”
None of the Pathfinders were enthusiastic when first hearing about virtual Pathfinders, but now all appear to enjoy the experience. Marsalis Young, nine years old, likes the Bible games. Thirteen-year-old Jahzara Griffiths said, I “expected we would just be going over our badges and didn’t think we would have to dress in our Pathfinder clothes and have inspection and drills. I enjoy the physical exercises. That is fun! Director Simmons actually makes us do jumping jacks and push-ups like we had normal club! That is also fun.”
Director Simmons said, “I’m just trying to treat it like I would my regular class. So far, the children are having fun.”