From a Distance

I stopped by Barnes & Noble on Saturday to pick up a good book to read this coming week. My selection: Every Drop of Blood, an account of the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, by Edward Achorn. Not just the famous address-- the finest ever delivered by a US President-- but the entire event and what swirled around it, only a few weeks before the assassination. I'm just a few pages in by now but am already learning so much.

It will be part of my reading while staying pretty much close to home these next several days.
Reading about the Civil War has reminded me that the last time First Baptist Church of Alexandria closed its doors to worship for an extended period of time was during that tragic, national convulsion. On a June Sunday morning in 1862, Northern troops burst into the service and commandeered the building for use as a military hospital.

Our pastor then, Charles C. Bitting (1859-66), stayed in the city when the same thing happened to other churches and all the other ministers fled. He continued to serve his scattered flock in smaller gatherings and from house to house. First Baptist got the building back in 1865, but didn't receive an apology from the government, or repairs. And no reimbursement, either--until 1915.

We survived, though-- and we will survive this current dislocation, too.

First Baptist Church did not hold public worship services this past Sunday, although over 1,000 people did worship with us online as a few singers sang and I preached a sermon in the empty FAC. It was different and a bit weird, I'll admit, but at the same time it was strangely wonderful. Those of us there, with the tech team, sensed the presence of God every bit as much as any other Sunday.

We will be doing the same this coming LORD's Day. We will "stream” at 11AM (EST) and I hope you and your family and friends will watch and worship with us.

We do not know how long this might continue. Our initial decision was made early and voluntarily, for the sake of our members and our neighbors. It is now practically mandatory that we not hold any gatherings of more than 10, or maybe 50, people.

It could be like this for a couple of weeks-- or months-- or more.

But just as in the days of the Civil War, we may not be able to go to church but we will not cease to be the church. We will be innovative and creative, and we will find ways to connect with each other that do not endanger anyone's health. We'll #flattenthecurve without drifting from our faith. We will emerge from this pandemic, eventually, stronger Christians than we were when it first started.

Like my predecessor, Charles Bitting, your pastoral staff and I are still going to be here, ministering in every way that we can. And our team of Deacons, Bible Fellowship leaders, and scores of other volunteers, will do everything possible to keep First Baptist the extraordinary, healthy, and very blessed church that it is.

Let's every one of us do his part-- in prayer, in faithful giving, and in positive witness-- to keep the light burning bright. Then later in the summer, when the new building is finally completed, we will be able to enter a bright and brand new era for our church.

God is testing and refining us for something very special in our future, and I can hardly wait to see what it is going to be!




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