The three of us who wrote this piece have been together our whole lives, before people even started counting our birthdays: we’re triplets, you see, now in our teens. And now we have accumulated an abundance of memories because of all the things we do together.
For example, go to church—Emmanuel Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church. We remember the last time we went to church like it was yesterday. We sat in our usual places, participated in the service as we usually did, and after the service we left to go home.
Never in our wildest dreams would we have predicted that this Sabbath would be the last Sabbath before the world changed. From a youth perspective, COVID-19 has affected the black church’s fellowship, reach, and community worship.
Church: our point of view
For many of our friends and colleagues, fellowship is an important part of the church experience. It is a chance to collaborate with other Christ-centered people and to evaluate the beliefs, ideals and practices observed in our daily lives. Meeting others who share similar beliefs has helped strengthen our personal beliefs and strengthen our roots in the Christian church. Activities such as Pathfinders and the Youth Church, as well as events such as Hush Harbour, a social event for young people, provide a space for young people to express themselves and find relief from the daily stressors that accompany their life.
Due to the pandemic, many young people have lost this space of relaxation and freedom. They were left stuck at home with no escape from the stresses and worries of their lives. While for some the lack of physical and interpersonal relationships allowed for individual growth and connection with God, for many it took away the motivation to keep going to church, and many were left with a spiritual void in their lives. their life. The pandemic has been a rude spiritual awakening for many who had entered into a relationship with the church and not with God.
The pandemic has affected different people differently. Many lost their jobs and now had to deal with the added concern of how they could pay for groceries and how they would be able to pay their bills. Our church has always maintained a vigorous social witness, sharing material possessions, holding health fairs, holding free “SALES” that allow neighbors in need to “buy” attractive clothing and other helpful items. The pandemic has heightened our witness, allowing us to continue to serve as a beacon of hope and relief for members of the community around us. We have been able to relieve some of the stress people are facing by creating food pantries, providing tuition assistance, and simply being a safe space to help ease their stressors. Through our experience with Emmanuel Brinklow’s Grocery Grab and Go initiative, we have had the opportunity to see the impact of our services, whether it is preparing bags of food every two weeks or knocking on people’s doors to deliver food.
This focus on awareness has helped show the community that we care not only about their spiritual needs, but their physical needs as well. It also provided us with an outlet to help us look outward, see the difference we were making in the community, and detach ourselves from ourselves and our personal circumstances. It also gave us time to reflect on how a simple act of kindness can bring joy to people’s lives. Especially with all the social justice issues of the time, we were empowered to be agents of change in our own way.
As young people, we have always loved active and engaging worship service. When virtual church services became the norm, many people lost the engaging element of in-person fellowship they once associated with church. From the perspective of many young people, the church has moved from a dynamic, in-person worship experience to a relaxed, online service on Saturdays. Then, in order to make their services more attractive and user-friendly, some worship leaders began to change the way their services were delivered. Churches have started setting up Zoom sessions during or after the service to encourage interaction between members of the public and speakers. Live chat sessions became an integral part of the service, and people were encouraged to provide feedback. This prompted the church experience to become more of a reflective and guided discussion where beliefs were reinforced and challenged, and new perspectives were explored. Through this new mode of worship, audiences continued to feel engaged and motivated to listen so they could participate in worship.
For some members, the pandemic has created many challenges. Virtual worship, financial difficulties and lack of motivation seem to have affected young and old alike. However, through it all, we persevered and kept moving forward. We began to take our spiritual life in hand more seriously; our church family has launched a huge outreach initiative; the online viewer experience has evolved from a simple service to a more dynamic and interactive worship experience. COVID has not been easy, but we have persevered and will continue to persevere.
COVID has shown us that nothing can stop the will of God’s youth who are committed to continuing to spread His love and His Word to every corner of the globe. Our prayer is that as we all continue to worship and serve, we may constantly be reminded of how far we have come and be encouraged that Jesus will take us all the way, no matter how far we have yet to go.
Takoma Academy Juniors Gabriel, Janelle, and Ethanaël attend Emmanuel Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland, with their parents, Darwin and Martine Morency.