March 27, 2020

Despite Lockdowns Due To COVID-19, Decatur Church Seeks Creative Ways To Engage Members

By Katja Ridderbusch

First Baptist Church of Decatur was founded in 1862, during the height of the Civil War. It has seen a lot. But the massive effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “is a whole new arena for us,” First Baptist senior pastor David Jordan said.

“Every day seems like a new challenge.”

The signature bells of the progressive Clairmont Road church are still ringing twice a day, at noon and 6 p.m. But all in-person events have been canceled. Like many congregations, Jordan and his team stay connected with their parishioners by streaming sermons, holding online bible studies or posting video messages.

“We’re currently trying to figure out how to be creative, still offer people a sense of inspiration and education,” the pastor said.

Like many congregations, pastor David Jordan and his team stay connected with their parishioners by streaming sermons, holding online bible studies or posting video messages. But, he said, they’re seeking more creative ways to engage as the coronavirus pandemic persists. 

One idea was to provide a carillon concert over the steeple speakers. But there was concern that people would gather in front of the church and violate the call for social distancing. Instead, they added some extra classic tunes after each ringing of the bells to inspire the community.

Also, First Baptist’s famous choir plans to keep going, music director Kathryn Hartgrove said.

“I’m figuring out a way to still rehearse my choir, by sending them parts and then finding a way that we can do online rehearsals, either from the music suite or my home,” she said.

When the church really becomes the church

The biggest challenge is to provide pastoral care, Jordan said, especially for people who are not connected to social media. He and his staff make a lot of old-fashioned phone calls.

“But if someone says, ‘I’m really lonely, I’m really sad, I need to see somebody,’ I’ll go visit them,” Jordan said. “I will do all I need to do, wash my hands, keep my distance.”

After all, that’s why he’s here, he adds.

“This is a time when the church really becomes the church,” he said. “This is what we are supposed to be doing. We need to be available.”

In whatever way possible, whether that’s digital or analog.

©  WABE | Katja Ridderbusch