By Drew Bergman
This is the continuation of a series of weekly articles featured in the Lake Cumberland Current about how churches in Russell County are adapting to the social distancing restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
If we were to make a word balloon of people’s experiences of April 2020 the word joy would be an unlikely one to find. However, as Pastor Bucky Walters of Jamestown Christian Church says, “Scripture tells us that we’re to have joy in all circumstances,” he said. “Even though this isn’t ideal for us we felt like we’re always going to look to the positives of things.”
The positivity being shared from Jamestown Christian Church (JCC) is a vapid vibe or buzzword devoid of deeper purpose, but the joy that comes from a community committed to each other.
JCC already had a running start on adapting modern tech into worship, having a church app and podcast to go along with their website and social media platforms, where their adaptation came was in how they utilized them.
“We’ve had our app for six-eight months and we hadn’t put a lot of investment into it,” Brother Bucky said. “It would archive our sermons and our podcast.” Now the app is even more helpful as it connects users to the live stream or to the Facebook page where there are daily videos from the church. The podcast, which is hosted by Brother Bucky and Youth Minister Micah Hascock has also provided valuable experience for the church as it relies more and more on the ability to utilize digital spaces.
“The podcast started close to eight months ago and just another way for us to connect to our people. It’s usually myself and Micah are on it. We’ll have special guests sometime, but it’s usually just a 30-minute here’s what’s going on, here are some thoughts on what we were talking about. We always want people to be challenged by it. What can you do this week to be more like Christ.”
As the restrictions began coming down the challenge for JCC was as much to do with keeping up with the limitations as adapting to them, “First few weeks we were trying to make decisions and make choices that would honor God and honor what was placed before us within our leadership,” Brother Bucky said. “Unfortunately at the beginning when we started making plans, a new directive would come out and we’d kind of have to back up and punt.”
Since the end of the third week of March, when everything settled in, JCC has expanded its offerings, adapting their existing talents and tech for new offerings. “We’re trying to use every avenue we can and I’ve said from the get-go that what some would deem a negative, we’re choosing to look at it as a positive we’re choosing to see this as an opportunity for us to expand our outreach and our ministry to people may never even step foot in our church.”
Before mid-March JCC hosted a substantial Wednesday night program including a dinner at 5:30 ahead of the 6:30 Bible study. With folks still needing that gathering, Bucky and Micah adapted their podcast experience to their already laid-back Wednesday nights. “It’s a lot of discussion basis and that’s where it’s morphed. It’s obviously a little awkward sitting there looking at a camera, but it’s morphed and we have the ability to do it like a talk show and keep it family-friendly. Mom and dad are craving something, but also the kids are and we’re trying to keep all of them plugged in.”
Elsewhere during the week their children’s and youth groups are meeting via Zoom on Sunday and Tuesday nights and the regular Sunday school classes are also coming online ahead of their regular live stream of Sunday services.
One of the more irregular new features to the Sunday service has been the dress-up days. A few weeks ago, churchgoers were encouraged to watch the live stream in their pajamas. This past weekend was Superhero Sunday. “Last week we were talking about the life of Paul and how his life was transformed and Superheroes played into that perfectly. Just to keep that engagement. We’ve developed a hashtag, #jcchomechurch, so that when people post we’re able to go see that.”
“As we gather together we have something to celebrate. Even in a pandemic, we choose to celebrate,” Brother Bucky said. “The longer that this goes the more the newness or the excitement of it can fade and we want to try to keep people encouraged and excited about church.”
But it’s not all online for the folks at JCC. They have committed to a High Five program, not to go about high-fiving people, but to reach out to five people a week. “The High Five is a great way to check on especially some of our older generation. [We’re] encouraging people to pick five people a week to call and check on them, to swing by from a distance and say ‘Hey is there anything I can do for you?’ ‘Is there anything I can help out with?’
“Just any way that we can be the Church. That’s kind of been our motto through all this is to be the Church. Maybe it’s a call, maybe dropping a letter in the mail and we’re encouraging people to change that five every week.”
An area of outreach they use to bridge the digital and the physical is their 10:00 a.m. bell ringing. As church doors closed, Governor Beshear asked churches and anywhere with a bell to ring that bell at 10 in the morning in solidarity and support. Jamestown Christian Church has taken that request a step further.
“We started the bell ringing with just staff and then one of our elders asked about having people come in and be a part of it,” Brother Bucky said. “The people ringing [Tuesday] aren’t from our church, they’re people from our community and they love Jamestown and the Hope that we can give and wanted to be a part of it and we love that. We’re all one church.”
Anyone in the community who is interested in participating in the bell ringing is welcome to call the church at (270) 343-4570 to see about scheduling a day and time. Bell ringers arrive around 9:45 Central, and the ringing is broadcast live on Facebook at starting at 9:55 a.m.
When asked about these challenges facing the community and the community of faith, Brother Bucky said, “Every time that something in the nation or the world is deemed negative or anti-church it’s always an opportunity for the church to shine.
“It’s always been an opportunity for our church to be the church. So I would encourage people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there will be an end to this. As I’ve said to our people, to our church, this pandemic did not take the God that I serve by surprise.
“He knows exactly what we’re going through. He’s walking through these same places with us that he did before. He’s not going to leave us, He’s not going to forsake us and that’s a promise from scripture and God’s Word is true. And that every word of it is truth. And if He says that he’s not going to leave us and not going to forsake us, He’s not.
“These moments we don’t walk alone.”