By Lonnie Wilkey
MEDON — Damon Olson’s first sermon as pastor of COVI didn’t go exactly the way he envisioned. No one showed up. But, technically, neither did he.
Olson’s first Sunday at Maple Springs came as churches all across the nation decided not to meet due to the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the nation and the world by storm.
Instead, the congregation listened to their new pastor’s first sermon via a video he recorded and uploaded to Facebook.
Little did he know when he accepted the call of the rural West Tennessee church in February that he would be moving to the church field during the pandemic. “The coronavirus was in the news but it had not affected the United States yet,” he recalled.
Olson, a former pastor and hospice chaplain from Fort Payne, Ala., had to adjust quickly as he moved to Medon and began introducing himself to his new congregation in unconventional ways.
Becoming familiar with his congregation has been hard, he acknowledged. “I started by going through the church directory and praying for each person by name,” he said. He then made phone call after phone call, praying with members and getting to know them as best as he could.
“It’s difficult not being able to connect with people face to face,” he observed.
And, in the midst of all that, he and his family are still trying to unpack, he laughed.
He has been helped, however, by a willing spirit from his congregation. “Our folks have been awfully kind, supportive and generous,” Olson said.
Trust and relationships take time to build even in the best of times, but Olson is confident it will happen. “We serve a big God. He can bind hearts together and He can solidify those relationships,” he affirmed. Also, he added, God “has put a great love in my heart for our people.”
After serving as a hospice chaplain for nearly 13 years, Olson is eager to get back to the pastorate and interacting in person with his new congregation on a daily basis.
In the meantime, he and his family are trying to get settled in a new environment and he is working to meet the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental needs of himself and his family as they adjust.
“You have to take care of yourself or you can’t take care of your flock,” he affirmed.
Olson knows he is in a unique situation that most pastors would not face because of the coronavirus, but he is optimistic. “Until we can meet together, we will do the best we can,” he affirmed.
“I think better days are ahead,” he said. B&R