By Bruce Chesser
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
Senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Hendersonville
On Nov. 20, 2020, I was conducting a wedding rehearsal in southern Kentucky. The plans for the wedding had changed significantly. It had gone from a large celebration of several hundred family and friends to a very small gathering of just family.
We wanted to be as responsible as possible and follow all of the proper protocols. But we still needed to rehearse what would happen the next day during the ceremony.
After the rehearsal had concluded I began to feel a little strange. On the drive home my wife mentioned that the skunk odor that had just invaded our truck was a very putrid smell. I said, “you smell a skunk right now?” She looked at me kind of sideways and said, “yes, it’s awful. Can’t you smell it?” My honest answer to the question was, “uh-oh. No, I cannot.”
That began our journey into the world of COVID-19 which would last 24 days. By the next morning I was running a fever of about 101 which would last for the next 12 days. Taste and smell were gone. I felt like I had the flu.
My wife began having similar symptoms, although her fever did not last as long. After my fever finally broke, I thought I was on the road to recovery only to learn that it had become COVID pneumonia. The journey continued.
So, what did my wife and I learn from our COVID experiences? First of all, prayer and words of encouragement are very important. Although we did not feel like talking on the telephone, texts, calls, Facebook posts letting us know that people were praying for us were very, very encouraging. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
We also learned that a cup of soup can be a huge gift. Some people offered and we told them we had plenty. Others just dropped it by the house without asking. Every expression became important.
I learned that as nice as it is to stay connected to our church through online worship, it is not the same as being there. I missed it so very much. It made me more aware of how much our folks, particularly our senior adults, who have been encouraged to avoid large gatherings of people must miss being at church.
For many of these people they have never gone more than a few weeks at a time being out of their church. Maybe for a vacation here or there; maybe for a sickness; but, they have never gone for month after month without being in church. It made my heart grieve for all of them. I missed three Sundays (I have never done that in more than 40 years of pastoral ministry), but some of them have missed many, many months of worship.
We all believe and pray that this will end in 2021. But until it does, we should all seek to find ways to be encouraging and helpful to those that have been most affected by this pandemic.
Oh, let me finish the wedding story. I obviously could not go back and conduct the wedding the following day. Fortunately, the groom’s pastor (Eric Taylor of Cedar Hill Baptist Church in Cedar Hill) was already taking part in the wedding with me. He took over and I am told he conducted a beautiful wedding ceremony for them.
We advised all of the people that were at the wedding rehearsal that my wife and I had developed COVID and, thankfully, no one contracted the virus from our gathering together that evening for the rehearsal. B&R