Nashville FBC spreads happiness with ‘COVID Caroling’ ministry
By David Dawson
NASHVILLE — Nashville First Baptist Church is getting an early jump on caroling season.
Minus the hot chocolate and mittens, of course.
Hoping to spread some cheer — and create some socially distanced fellowship — during the pandemic, FBC recently started a ministry called “COVID caroling.” The initiative is exactly what the name implies: A group of FBC church members visiting various houses and other places to sing worship hymns and praise songs from the driveway or in proximity to the doorstep.
Fittingly, there is even some Christmas music on the “set list,” with Joy to the World being the closing song at many of the stops.
“Our Pastoral Leadership Team had been seeking ways to connect with the members of our congregation, and this initiative was brought forward as a great suggestion,” said FBC worship and music pastor Joe Fitzpatrick.
“It was a group collaboration by several members of our sanctuary choir,” he said. “We thought it would be great to mobilize our music ministry and sanctuary choir, in particular, during these days of isolation and inability of our congregation to gather for in-person fellowship and worship.”
Operating with about a dozen singers, the group of carolers typically makes two or three stops during each outing, which have generally been held on Tuesday nights and Wednesday afternoons since the start of the initiative in early July.
The group travels in a caravan, making stops at assisted living facilities and at a number of houses where church members live.
Fitzpatrick said the group often visits “the homes of members who have not been able to — or are reluctant to — be out and about due to being a part of the COVID-19 high risk population.”
Fitzpatrick said the ministry seems to be meeting its objective of creating happiness, and a spirit of worship, during these dark days brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
“The smiles on the faces and the words of appreciation which have been expressed indicate we have touched the heart strings of our people and community by sharing the love of Christ through song,” Fitzpatrick said.
Nancy Ryals, a resident of a senior living facility in the Nashville area, said the visit by the carolers was a spirit-lifting event for her and some of the other residents.
“We gathered outside my senior living apartment building as several friends and I waited for some members of the Nashville First Baptist sanctuary choir to sing for us,” she said. “We sat around picnic tables under some trees, joining with them to sing and fellowship.”
Ryals noted that one of her friends described the caroling as “delightful.”
Fitzpatrick said that at one of the stops an elderly couple in their nineties came to the porch to listen to the songs. Fitzpatrick was later told that the couple had not been able to go outside their home in more than a year.
Each group of carolers typically has three sopranos, three altos, two tenors, and two basses for each outing. Fitzpatrick noted that FBC is using the ‘Sign-Up Genius’ platform to handle registrations for the potential carolers.
“We are intentionally limiting the number of participants to 12 or less singers in order to foster physical distancing,” said Fitzpatrick, who added that the church plans to keep the ministry going for several more weeks.
Lois Jones, a resident at Richland Place retirement center in Nashville, said she will not soon forget the happiness she felt when the carolers stopped by.
“Seeing familiar faces and hearing favorite hymns during a time of isolation and uncertainty brought joy and assurance, which has lasted far beyond their visit,” she said.
Fitzpatrick said carolers sing both traditional hymns and also some more recent praise songs, such as “In Christ Alone.” The carolers also take requests from the “attendees.”
Before leaving each stop, the group of carolers asks for prayer requests and then says a prayer for those who listened to the music.
“I end our time by saying, ‘and in the spirit of ‘COVID Caroling’ and sharing the joy of Christ’ … and then we burst out singing ‘Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come!’ ” Fitzpatrick said. B&R