In lockdown, pastors across Europe prepare members to face grief, share hope

As the congregation of Immanuel Baptist Church in Madrid is spread out all over the city in lockdown, pastor Tim Melton — just like pastors across Europe — looks for ways to minister without being able to leave home. Submitted photo

EUROPE (BP) — Tim Melton said the coronavirus hasn’t made it into the living room of his family’s two-bedroom apartment yet or inside the virtual walls of his church.

But as the congregation of International Baptist Church in Madrid is spread out all over the city in lockdown, he watches the COVID-19 numbers climb, and he knows it could happen soon.

“It’s getting really bad in the hospitals,” said Melton, who is originally from Wharton, Texas. “I don’t feel that in my house right now, but we have a church member working in medical care who is in the middle of it every day.”

So right now, Melton is focusing on helping his church find creative ways to meet practical needs and share hope in the midst of lockdown — and prepare spiritually for even harder times.

They’re upbeat right now, but “a month from now, if people in the church have died, or if people we know have died, there will be a different feel to the conversation,” he said.

Parker Windle, pastor of Emmanuel International Church in Paris, said he has the same burdens, and they’re getting heavier by the minute — some members of his congregation already have the virus.

“I’ve been calling my church members, and it’s given me an opportunity to connect in a different way,” said Windle, an Alabama native whose church, like Melton’s, is part of the International Baptist Convention (IBC). “I think in general people are more open right now to talk about difficult things. They want to debrief and talk through Scriptural implications of this.”

As the numbers rise, Windle said he knows it’s very possible some people in his church will be touched by grief.

“We’ll have to be thinking about the people impacted in that way and help them get ready to face that,” he said.

In Italy, which has one of the largest shares of coronavirus cases and deaths so far, Pastor Loren Holland said he also has that on his mind.

“Looking at 1 Peter 1:13, we as a church are thinking of this idea of preparing,” said Holland, pastor of Rome International Church. “What does it look like to prepare for bad news? What does it look like to be prepared to share hope with people who are awakened during this time to their need for a Savior?”

Most members of the church — which is also part of the IBC — are immigrants from other countries, and for many of them the church is their family, said Holland, a missionary kid and graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“That’s what my heart beats for the most right now,” he said. “A lot of them are scared and anxious about what’s going to happen.”

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Source: Baptist Press