Pastors’ virtual gatherings: ‘We’re all in this together’

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MAYO–“Believing that if we will, as scripture says, ‘humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, He will heal our land,’” Allen Hawkins, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Mayo, joined fellow Florida Baptist pastors “to call out upon the Lord” during the second virtual statewide prayer meeting April 2.

Hawkins and at least 110 pastors participated in the web-based video conferencing Zoom call while another 45 watched through a live stream on Facebook. The call to prayer has become a weekly event since the coronavirus pandemic forced Floridians to shelter in place, disrupting worship services and pressing pastors to create new paradigms to do church.

Four Florida Baptist pastors led the Thursday evening prayer meeting: H.B. Charles, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville; Brian Stowe, First Baptist Church in Plant City; Ted Traylor, Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola; and David Uth, First Baptist Church in Orlando. Meetings were held concurrently for Hispanic and Haitian pastors.Zoom Call, Prayer Meeting, David UthDr. Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said the prayer Zoom meetings “have become like a mini Pastors’ Conference. God is using this opportunity to minister to our pastors during this unique season of ministry.”

Hawkins, who has served the Mayo church in north Florida for 17 months, said he “enjoys hearing from these pastors and what these men of God have to say–and how they are encouraging us as they share how God is ministering to them during this time. We as pastors need that time to come together as a source of encouragement as we are ministering and reaching out to our own congregation,” he added.

“We are taking these days of quarantine one day at a time, seeking God’s face by diving into His Word through devotion and prayer time, and getting more creative on how we can reach His people and shepherd the flock,” Hawkins said.

Among the reasons Michael Mott, pastor of Seminole First Baptist Church in Tampa, participated in the statewide Zoom calls is the “great appreciation I have for each pastor who shared from God’s Word,” he said.

“I, personally, was encouraged and uplifted by the time with other pastors.  Knowing we’re all going through this and that we can lean on one another is a great reassurance,” he added.

Erik Cummings, pastor of New Life Baptist Church of Carol City, said the calls to prayer “are valuable because it affords all of our pastors the opportunity to connect across the state for encouragement and enrichment through God’s word and prayer. I feel that is vital at any time, especially during difficult times like today.”

The president of the Florida Baptist State Convention said, the virtual meetings inspired him in “everyday life, beyond our pastoral responsibilities. I view it as an important opportunity to be poured into by others and be replenished.”

In addition to connecting with “our co-laborers around the state via technology,” Cummings said, “ I think on the other side of this pandemic this will provide opportunities for prayer partnerships, and groups can be established among pastors in various pockets around the state.

Along with the weekly statewide prayer meetings, Florida Baptist Convention staff have led smaller regional and affinity-based Zoom calls since the coronavirus sidelined events, travel and gatherings.

In these meetings, pastors share their struggles to do church in this new paradigm, assist fellow pastors–especially as it relates to new technology–and celebrate each other’s victories.

In the past 30 days, the Convention staff led 449 Zoom meetings, which were attended by 5,819 participants who devoted a total of 208,628 minutes to the Kingdom work in Florida.

Eddie Bevill, pastor of Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, helped to facilitate a South Florida meeting and has urged fellow pastors to attend these on-line gatherings.

“We’re all in this together is what resonates with me,” he said. “It is a great reminder of the grace and sovereignty of our loving Lord. I am also amazed by some of the praise reports of the creativity and servanthood among our churches!”

Mott expressed appreciation for “Tommy Green’s leadership through this crisis, taking the initiative to connect with us pastors and helping us to connect to one another.

Right Beside You has become more than a motto; it’s become real!”

The next Call to Prayer for pastors will be held Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m., on both through Zoom and the Convention’s Facebook page.

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