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Pastor Jack Sumption of First Christian Church shared his thoughts and answered some questions as the changes and challenges faced by pastors and ministers during this time.
What attracted you to ministry? How long have you been a pastor?
Jack Sumption: Looking back, I was mentored for ministry by my home preacher. He loved to fish. He invited me to go along. He would speak to me of spiritual life and our fishing outings often included a stop or two along the way to visit with others. He encouraged me to be a “fisher of men.”
I began my preaching career at the Coffey Christian Church just south of Downing back in 1978. Over 4 decades!
Before this pandemic, what did a typical church work week look like for you?
JS: Most mornings in the church office studying for sermons and Bible lessons. There are always administrative details to attend to. Engaged in community service, attending meetings,
How has that changed?
JS: Every day seemed early on to provide new challenges. The biggest was in setting up ways to be as connected as possible to our church family. The ever-changing guidelines for social distancing took away our Children’s programming and youth functions.
How are you helping your congregation celebrate Holy Week without being able to do the traditional Palm Sunday/Maundy Thursday/Easter activities?
JS: First Christian Church hosted no specific Holy Week observances. Our Scotland County Ministerial Alliance members came together to record an online Good Friday service. As many others, we did an online broadcast for our Easter Sunday Service.
What new or different challenges is your congregation facing now? How are they responding to the challenges?
JS: We have taken Sunday morning gatherings for granted. So much more happens at a Sunday church service than one would think. Seeing one another on a weekly basis gives time to engage in one another’s lives. We visit with one another. We learn one another’s needs or joyful experiences. We connect!
A new challenge is to be purposeful in “connecting” at a distance. It caused us to update lots of information at the church office and establish the best connections possible with church family and friends, who use social media, email, phone…etc. and communicate accordingly. Our leadership is more involved in checking up on people who have been attending services as well as our membership.
What different needs are you ministering to?
JS: We are fortunate to have so many self-reliant folks in the Church family. More prayer requests are being shared as we are not able to communicate them on Sundays as church family. At least two of our ladies have taken it upon themselves to supply meals to a number of people who may have health issues or may be a bit more isolated than others.
Are you seeing people really worried about the coronavirus?
JS: There are a few who have expressed concern because they are on the more vulnerable group with health conditions that might be compromised by the virus. Several are very conscientious about the recommendations and guidelines. I don’t sense that there is any overwhelming concern among our church family or community.
What challenges are you facing personally as a minister?
JS: I miss “routine.” I am challenged by having to change plans quickly.
How are you making contact with congregation members in need?
JS: I shared earlier that the Leadership of FCC Memphis is taking on more responsibility in being in contact with our church family. Four elders and I compiled a list of all the people who regularly attend First Christian Church. We established five groups from that list. Each one of us is committed to regular contact with the people on our lists. We may make phone calls, send emails or video chat to encourage people, to ask of their needs, to provide spiritual counsel, to pray. We leaders will share back and forth as prudent to assist with needs, share concerns, etc.
Can you recommend a scripture to help people during these unpredictable times?
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB77)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.