Food Drive volunteers that helped prepare 52 crates of food to feed 52 families that were impacted by COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Miriam Ruiz, Elder in the Church.
By Melany J. Ruiz, Staff Reporter
For the past six months, I missed going to church. I’ve always loved the early 9 a.m. mornings that consisted of family breakfast and worship music blaring through the living room TV speakers.
Church has changed in the past months since the global outbreak of COVID-19. It has pushed services and bible studies onto a virtual landscape that I find unrecognizable. To be honest, I’m going through, what I would call, a “dry spiritual season” with God.
Despite the COVID-19 cases, several things have happened in the world, leaving room for a whole lot of emotions. The National Christian Foundation found that during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, 1 in 3 practicing Christians stopped attending church.
As for why there is a dip in attendance, Adelaida Ruiz, Lead Deacon of Bethesda Presbyterian Church (Bethesda), has a theory.
“It feels cold because you can’t see people’s faces,” Ruiz said. “And you can’t see the person’s face when you are talking to them.”
In addition to leading Bethesda, Ruiz hosts a weekly Bible Study every Wednesday through Zoom. I can totally agree that people don’t turn on their cameras during the bible study. When you call on them to talk there is often no response, insinuating that they just logged on and possibly walked away.
Luis Nava, Youth Leader of Trinidad, Bethesda’s youth group admits, “I think I have fallen asleep while in a virtual bible study.” I can also say it doesn’t help that our bible study is towards the end of the day, I mean 8 p.m.? It is expected. I’ll admit I have too.
Not seeing my congregation, or our “brothers” and “sisters” as we say in Bethesda hurts, I used to see them every week, talk to them, eat with them, I even befriended some of them. My brothers and sisters have been affected by COVID-19. Some have lost their jobs, lost loved ones from COVID-19, some even got COVID-19. All I want is to give them a hug or lay hands on them and pray with them in unity, but the pandemic keeps us apart.
In order to keep up the sense of community, Nava started a monthly food drive that encourages our brothers and sisters to support those who cannot afford groceries during this time of uncertainty.
“I think, if it wasn’t for the food bag giveaway, there would be a lot of people we wouldn’t have seen in the last few months,” Nava said. “Or they wouldn’t have seen us, so the food bag has kept people working. At least once a month getting that spark back on.”
I am also aware of the orders Governor Newsom gave, no indoor worship, no in-person bible studies, no services order that some churches are even being sued for failing to oblige. In no way am I encouraging this behavior. I think there are some alternatives that can help us connect to receiving Christ in the midst of this pandemic.
Coral Taluban, CSUDH Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Ministry Team Leader, shared what her home church and intervarsity has done to keep their members engaged. Outdoor worship, drive-in sermons where you can tune your radio to listen to the service from your car, and justice orientated bible studies that are relevant to what’s going on seem to help.
Taluban illustrates a concept depicting a “dry season” in your walk with Christ called “The Dark Night of the Soul.”
“It feels like you’re in a desert place, if you look in the bible the desert place is where the most change happens the most for people. The desert place is the place where they find God the most clearly, cause there’s no distractions.” Taluban said. “ The desert place is where they have opportunities to hear from God and see miracles happens because they have nothing else but God in the desert place.”
The Desert place reminds me of the time Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the Devil. I think it’s important to realize that in the midst of the storm you can always find that light and that light is God. The need for a physical place of worship is not necessary, it is how you demonstrate your faith with others and how you keep the spirit of God alive in times where you, or in this case, the world is in the desert place. “Demonstrate that you have faith and [are] waiting for God.” Ruiz said. “ I think if you react the same way people do, you are showing your faith isn’t firm. So stay calm and have faith in him and wait for him, for his time.”
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”- Ephesians 4:3