by Torion Bridges
REDFORD, MI – For many of us we’re living in the new normal of being scattered, not gathered, and we’re watching the very fabric of our lives being ripped apart. For some, a gathering isn’t just about hearing the word, it’s about the chance to be among folks who offer support, wisdom and love. For me, the concept of community was one I learned early. I was blessed to have an array of aunts and uncles, godparents, grandparents and friends’ parents who looked out for me. Way before it was a catch phrase or a book title, my life was one that took root in the African proverb of “it takes a village to raise a child”. It wasn’t just my life that seemed to be like this, my friends by virtue of this rearing became extended family. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word ‘community’ as: a unified body of individuals: such as; a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. Yet to be honest, I never thought of it like that. I thought of a community simply as this: a place where love is.
For more than two months, we’ve been without our Christian community, simply put, we miss our church homes. See Burt Bacharach argued way before I was born that what the world needed now was love. But I’d like to argue that what the world misses and needs now is community. See COVID-19 isn’t just a horrible virus for medical reasons, it’s horrible because it’s robbed us of our community and celebrations associated with it. We’ve missed our prayer meetings and church services. We’ve missed celebration services recognizing milestones in our families from birthdays to graduations. Yet the oddest part is seemingly this, we’re not even able to mourn the loss of our loved ones.
On March 30th, our church lost a member, but I lost one of the members of my community when one of my best friends, Thomas Fields became one of the first COVID-19 fatalities here in Southeast Michigan. Thomas, an only child, a Navy Veteran who served his country honorably, a world class chef, father to Ethan, teacher at his old elementary/middle school, early supporter, consistent believer in and tactician in ensuring other people reached their dreams is now gone. Honestly, as his pastor, I know he’s gone as I eulogized him. I planned the service. I picked the suit out for him to wear. But as a friend I somehow have hope that he’s just gone on another tour of duty protecting this country abroad. A longstanding member of my community is gone, and it seems as if it happened before it was supposed to, after all he was only 32.
I had no idea when we became friends that his funeral would be the first funeral I’d ever preside over. I had no idea that my closest friends, family and church would be stunned by his death. I had no idea I’d have the strength to do any of the things I did during this time. Yet what I do know is this, GOD knew, and for such a time as this I’d have a new community to lean on, The Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM), North American Mission Board (NAMB), and my brothers in the Send Network. When word got out about Thomas’s passing they went into action. Calls from all over the state and country came out of nowhere, and they weren’t empty sympathy calls. My family and I felt loved. My big brothers in the faith, Shea Prisk, Tony Lynn, and Ken Nether as well as my entire cohort of planters in the Send Network Training came around me and covered me. I drew strength from their love, their brotherhood, our community.
Due to the effects of COVID-19, we’re missing the sense of community we seemingly took for granted. We took for granted the ability to gather, to love on, to care for one another. We took for granted our villages, and truthfully, we miss them. When I answered my call to church planting, my family and I auditioned or interviewed several networks and the Send Network and NAMB stuck out because they talked about two things: Brotherhood and Community. I knew I didn’t want to walk this alone, and I didn’t want my wife to feel alone either. Little did I know it would be in the midst of a global pandemic that my new community would step up for us.
As for Thomas’s memory and legacy, we’ve taken on a greater role by supporting his son, and we’re pushing forward with a program to provide hot meals for 150 families a week. Thomas envisioned Commonwealth Church to be a place where people would not only be fed spiritually, but physically, too. Through our kitchen we will provide hot meals, no questions asked, to 150 families in our community. We’re thankful the project has the support of the BSCM, and Merriman Road Baptist Church. Our aim through this program is to fill a physical need for the 16 weeks of Summer while schools are closed and not able to provide families with additional food. It’s in times like this that we should love our neighbors harder, and I’m thankful it’s in times like this that my Michigan Baptist family hugged me tighter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Torion Bridges is the Lead Pastor of The Commonwealth of Faith Church in Redford. He and his wife Jasmine are the proud parents of Hunter (age 2) and Hannah (7 months). Torion is a bi-vocational church planter serving who loves using the art of storytelling to WIN souls for the Kingdom. If you are interested in partnering with the Commonwealth of Faith Church, please contact : firstname.lastname@example.org