Albany pastor talks faith, uncertainty in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Albany pastor talks faith, uncertainty in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Conversations about faith, uncertainty, grief and the coronavirus pandemic are taking place among church families and believers everywhere.

Daniel Simmons has pastored Albany’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church for 29 years. Like many pastors, he is guiding his roughly 3,000 members through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The hand washing, the social distancing that they’re asking us to do. But even going beyond that and reading and listening to other sources of information, talking with your own physician, and getting some input on things that you can do, not only to avoid it but just to build your immune system,” Simmons said.

And when he receives questions about faith and the role that God may be playing in this pandemic?

“We’ve got to see how we can work in partnership with God to find the good and do the good. And so for us, doing the good means how can the church, one, service members and then two, serve those who are not a part of our congregation, because this pandemic, is just creating a lot of needs that we have not known before,” Simmons said.

Simmons said Mt. Zion started streaming its services as soon as churches were asked not to meet, and have also put other technology in place to help members communicate with each other.

“We had in place Zoom and conferencing calls for other groups that want to make a Sunday school new class or some other ministry. And there are some people, mostly older people, who chose not to participate in those kinds of settings. And we’re just constantly making phone calls and keeping people engaged in ministry that way,” Simmons said.

And so how does his church minister stay in touch with the sick and shut-in?

“We have a group of people, including myself every day, sharing in calling," Simmons said. "Our elderly members are getting phone calls, from no less than two to three members every day, checking up on them, seeing what their situation is, and if they need anything, then we’re positioned to provide it if we can do it.”

Gov. Brian Kemp has spoken with Simmons and other Georgia pastors about this pandemic and its effect on congregations.

“It was very encouraging in the sense that we were able to get direct information from him as to the status of COVID-19, how it’s impacting Georgia, but also how from the state level, the responses are being handled,” Simmons said.

In his daily journey, Simmons and other pastors are talking with, and encouraging each other.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church is collaborating with nine other nearby churches to combine resources and assess needs amongst all members.

“All of us in our churches, we’ve got counselors. Those counselors are available to anybody in any church anywhere. When, when I when we budgeted what we were going to spend in terms of the covert response. That money is not just for Mt. Zion, it goes in that pot at every church is putting money in the pot. And together, we are responding to the community’s needs,” Simmons said.

Simmons has some serious concerns about death and the inability of family and friends to properly grieve.

“You’re going to have people with all kinds of issues, you’re gonna have to deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of all of this, including not being able to grieve the death of a loved one, not being able to participate in the transition, not having comfort available to you through the sources that you look to for all of your life, the church and other friends,” Simmons said. “And so that’s going to happen.”

Despite these tough times, Simmons said churches will stand strong.

“The church is not shut down,” Simmons said. “Buildings are closed and often gatherings of 10 or more have been prohibited, but the church called out believers of Jesus Christ, we have not been shut down.”

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