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  • Clark Cothern

Thankful for a pandemic?!

YPSILANTI – Who would have thought we would thank God for a pandemic?

I don’t have to tell you what it was like. You lived it. The fall-out from many churches felt like limbs being torn away from the Body of Christ.

Gratefully, our little congregation didn’t lose a single life to a virus. But we watched the slow-motion, lockdown, train wreck, take person-after-person away to other churches where they had a) a building, b) kids programs, c) youth programs, or d) a like-minded political view.

Since we had met in a rented school building where no outside organizations, including churches, were allowed to meet, we decided to offer an alternative way to “gather.”

We knew that there was no substitute for physically gathered worship, but there we were. So for eighteen months we “Zoomed” our worship services. Before 2020 most of us thought that zoom was something you did when you were late for church!

Since we couldn’t gather for a mid-week prayer meeting, we started one online. And the few who took it seriously poured their hearts out to the Sovereign God who works all things together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose.

Prior to that 18-month “prison-like lockdown” we never thought it would feel like a sunny new day when fifteen whole people bravely met inside a cavernous school auditorium that swallowed us up and made us feel even smaller. But we sang praises through joyful tears. We were together again, like post-exile Israel!

Since we had been stashing away money usually spent on rent, we decided to invest in some equipment to help us stream our services to those who were still unable to make their way back to a physical space for worship. We dubbed the tech crew our “Stream Team,” and they learned a new craft via tutorial videos bravely trying something they had never done before.

And of course, we heard from some who said, “It’s a shame so many people choose to stay home and drink coffee in their jammies when they should be in church.” And I get it. I really do. I have preached for years, and there’s no substitute for being with other members of the faith family to sing, pray, give, hear the Word proclaimed and explained, to be challenged to live as a true disciple, and to practice the biblical “one anothers.”

But we asked, “God, where are you at work?” And since several members’ health and/or mobility simply wouldn’t allow them to make their way back, we streamed.

And that’s when God did something wonderfully unexpected. He allowed others to find our streamed worship services. Many who joined us were also homebound. Some lived in other countries. We developed a relationship with a pastor in Kenya. He still emails to remind us that he’s praying for us. A pastor in India tells us he’s using our media Bible teachings to prepare for his own messages since they have no formal training where he lives.

Now when we “gather” for worship, complete with streaming, we estimate that one third of the participants are actually inside a building. Two thirds are joining us from some other location, in several United States and at least two additional countries. Recently, after asking God to forgive me for my lack of faith, I said, “Thank you, Lord, for a pandemic. You are still a Romans 8:28 kind of God!”



Clark Cothern is grateful to serve as Pastor at Living Water Community Church, Ypsilanti, MI. Living Water is a congregation continuing to learn how to R.E.A.C.H. (Recognize Everyone And Communicate Hope). Clark and his wife Joy live in Milan, MI. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.


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