Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
It is truly a gift from the Lord and a blessing to be able to serve Christ in church planting and pastoring in our part of the world. We are grateful for your prayerful support and your partnership with us in the work. Thank you again for all that you do.
The coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world and affected people in most (if not all) places, resulted in all church gatherings being shut down here sometime in mid-March. As is the case with so many, this required us to quickly move towards an online form of worship in which we started recording the upcoming sermons and sending out a virtual service online, which included announcements, various song selections, and of course, the next sermon. This also required us to move our midweek Bible study and prayer meetings to an online format.
Now, I realize that this is probably a very familiar story for many. But having said that, we are excited that things have changed for us recently as the Government of New Brunswick announced new regulations, allowing for religious gatherings of up to 50 people, which does not include the necessary staff for carrying out religious services. And so, on Sunday, June 7th, we joyfully made our return to Cornerstone Church in Richibucto for corporate worship together in the Lord! A few changes were made in the arrangement of the building and the operation of the service in order to be more accommodating to public concerns and ensure that people felt safe. We had a gathering of exactly 50 people for corporate worship on our first Sunday back, which included several new visitors, and it was a joyful reunion! Hearing the singing of the people of God was beautiful and refreshing. And preaching, not to a camera and empty chairs, but to a room full of eager listeners, excited to hear God’s Word, was a great encouragement! We are happy and blessed by this as our hope in times of trouble is not found in comfort and safety, but in the Sovereign Lord. He is our refuge in adversity, and He is forever worthy of our worship.
The shutdown was a time of personal adjustment for me, as I’m sure it was for many, not only because we were no longer meeting together corporately, but also because it was more difficult to make visitation and to connect with people. Also, in sermon preparation, there was a felt awareness of having to preach before a camera for an online audience that one couldn’t see, which for me personally meant a greater dependence on carefully prepared sermon manuscripts. This was a time of personal growth as my sermon preparation had to adjust towards this new format and medium, requiring an adjustment in terms of study and stretching in terms of preparedness. So, I have felt the Lord use this time to help shape me as a preacher, and it has served to help me not only develop but also get ahead in preparing sermons.
Another blessing in all of this is that more people have been taking part in and listening to the online services from a wider reach than we would normally have in any given service. Where we usually would average more or less in the ’40s, we have been averaging more than double that through the online uploads. Also, with the sermons being shared with others online, a Christian family started listening to the services online and have started coming to Cornerstone since the church opened up again. They have let us know that they are looking for a church and plan on visiting Cornerstone over the coming weeks with the intention of deciding if it is where the Lord would have them settle as their home church. This has been an encouragement to us.
Also, with everything being shut down and with so many distractions removed, people seem to be thinking more about the things of God as they are more mindful of death and mortality, and find themselves looking for answers to very important questions. This has led to unique witnessing opportunities and meaningful conversations. One couple in the community came into the church several weeks ago requesting a Bible and started watching the online services online. They have since come out to attend Cornerstone for the first time one Sunday since we returned to corporate worship and said that they plan to continue attending.
So, I believe that God has been at work in our midst as we have had more people listening to the online services, which has, in turn, resulted in new visitors to the church since our reopening, and even though things have been different during the shutdown, the Lord has been faithful and has given us opportunities to share Christ.
Please continue to pray for us, for the church, and for our community.