By Dr. Sophia Steibel
About two Sundays ago our lesson text, Acts 2:37-47, led us to consider how First Baptist Church Shelby could be a true community of God. The reading underscored the celebration of Pentecost in which persons from all over received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter then preached an eye-opening sermon, a “cut to the heart” type of sermon, which led the audience to ask Peter and others, “Brothers, what should we do” (Acts 2:37 NRSV). As we continued the narrative, we learned that for that group of new believers to be called “church” it meant to study the Bible as the apostles taught, break the bread, and practice communal prayers. Something happened in the lives of those brothers and sisters as they engaged in the practices of the Christian faith.
COVID19 interrupted for us f2f encounters. How could we remain a true community of God if we were unable to meet, study scripture, and pray together? The live worship and Wednesday teachings have helped us, but the intimate relationships through small groups would still be missing if zoom or other virtual platforms were unavailable. Now, don’t take me wrong, I am not a high-tech person. Much to the contrary, I am one who thinks the telephone is still the greatest invention ever! It works every time. But, because my profession required that I learn in a hurry to navigate zoom and other means of communication, I felt encouraged to attempt at zoom lessons for Sunday School.
Most in my Sunday School class, myself included, said the famous words, “We have never done it this way before,” but we were willing to try it out. Needless to be said it is wonderful to see many familiar faces as we consider the Bible lesson and prayer together, so that we are strengthened as usual by face to face encounters.
Just as the church in Acts became a true community of God because they spent time studying God’s word, fellowshipping, praying, and breaking the bread together, the same is true for us. We need one another in Jesus. We help each other when we practice faith together. We may be on hold momentarily, but we continue in the rhythm of growing in this life of faith together, even if through zoom, and for that we are so grateful.
Dr. Steibel is Professor of Christian Education at Gardner-Webb University’s School of Divinity and the Teacher of the Joy Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church, Shelby, NC