Rolling with the Pandemic Punches: A Texas Pastor’s Reflections
By Carl Stagner
Who knew, at the beginning of 2020, that so much of daily life in everyday society would be basically shutdown by the time mid-March came around—including much of the usual functions of the local church? Few predicted then that restrictions would be extended, and extended again; that by the end of the summer we would still be in the midst of a pandemic. What have local churches learned through all this? What has God been teaching us in the midst of the mess? A recent conversation with Darius Miller, pastor of Shadydale Church of God in Houston, Texas, reveals some perspectives on the pandemic from the pulpit.
On March 29, Shadydale Church of God closed its doors to the public. It was a difficult day, but even then it would have been hard to imagine just how long their doors would be locked. “We have not gathered since March,” Pastor Darius explains. “We had a stay-at-home order in Houston, and while the requirements have changed over the last few months, the stay-at-home recommendations have consistently requested that we stay safe, wear masks, and avoid in-person gatherings.”
Of course, it is only the church building that has remained closed; God’s church has remained in operation and active throughout the coronavirus crisis, including in Houston, Texas. Shadydale is erring on the side of safety out of concern for the flock, but Darius continues the role of shepherd—though at a distance. The realization that their congregation could go virtual was a lesson learned and unexpected blessing.
“We learned that we can do our services online!” Pastor Darius explains. “I never imagined doing our services on video before. We can reach the world with the gospel from where we are.” And while he admits they’ve had to cancel certain special events, and that there’s nothing quite like meeting in-person, he’s thankful for the means to keep ministry going. “The members have been faithful in their stewardship, so online giving has been a tremendous blessing to our ministry.”
This unusual season has brought Shadydale back to the basics. The lack of what they once took for granted holds new meaning; the simple joys of life are longed for. Darius Miller describes it as an acknowledgement of what we value most. For this Houston congregation, that’s people over programs and fellowship over function. “Friends and fellowship really matter as believers,” Pastor Darius reflects. “We usually think of missing people when they have passed away, but COVID-19 has taught us to value one another even more while we are still living!”
Darius Miller may be a pastor but, like all pastors, isn’t immune to disappointment, discouragement, and even dread for what may lie ahead. He has found Isaiah 41:10 particularly helpful: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (KJV).
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.
*Featured (top) photo: Darius Miller with wife Ingrid (left).