It could have been any normal Sunday in any church across the U.S.
A gospel quartet sang harmonic versions of “Blessed Jesus, Hold My Hand” and “Til the Storm Passes By.” Members of the congregation waved and said hi, and the pastor presented an uplifting message.
But instead of sitting inside in pews, we sat outside in our cars, with doors closed and windows rolled up.
“If you love Jesus, would you go ahead and honk this morning!” said Brent Gentzel, senior pastor at the church, addressing the people sitting in about 50 cars in the parking lot. All of the drivers honked and flashed their headlights.
Listening on their FM radios, churchgoers heard about the “great army of compassion” that the Christian church will provide to many as cases of Coronavirus spread throughout the country.
Gentzel said while many people dismiss organized religion, in times of crisis, communities are needed to help each other, and churches are often those helping communities. He pointed across the street, to Texas Presbyterian Health in Kaufman, and said it was churches in years past that started hospitals, and now there are more than 80 across North Texas that were founded by Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist congregations.
Reading from Psalm 23 in the Bible, Gentzel noted that the famous words, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” have been used during difficult times throughout history, including the trenches of World War I, the airplanes of World War II, the Great Depression, and a previous pandemic, the 1918 flu pandemic.
“The world has been afraid,” he said, referring to past events, as well as the current outbreak. “You will not walk through this alone. God will be with you.”
Before his sermon, Gentzel asked the following of his congregation:
• Pray for our elected leaders and all healthcare workders.
• Get the facts on the flu, and don’t believe everything we hear about it. “They’re not going to release a cure on the Internet,” he said, only half jokingly.
• People who are 65 and older or with chronic health conditions should stay home as much as possible.
•Those who are able should help their neighbors and those in their church community who need help.
“Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it,” he said. “We are helping other people.”
•Include people in online gatherings, phone calls, and church broadcasts.
•Call local churches, or reach out to church members, to discuss belief and faith.
He noted that the church’s Promiseland Preschool is staying open during this time, with extra precautions in place, so many parents can continue working in healthcare and other professions. Gentzel said if he becomes sick, he knows he doesn’t need to worry about his family, because he knows they will be cared for by church members.
“From a crisis, great opportunities can arise,” he said. ”We have those opportunities in the next two weeks.”
Members of the church will be helping KISD staff deliver school meals to children, he noted.
While some view this pandemic as a time of great evil, he said we can also take this chance to view it as a “great reset.”