Three Congregations Plan Quarantine Surprise for Pastor
Jim Jenkins loves people and he loves interacting with each of the members and guests while pastoring his three district churches: Livingston, Mount Ellis Academy and Bozeman churches. He enjoys people so much, he preaches at each church every Sabbath. Ever since recent state's restrictions, due to COVID-19, forced him to livestream from an empty church, it was evident not having the fellowship we all are accustomed to each Sabbath would be perhaps one of his greatest challenges.
With this in mind, a group of Bozeman Church members decided it was time to act. The plans were made, and calls and emails were sent out to all three churches. The response and results were overwhelming.
Instead of an empty church, almost every pew was filled with photographs of church members — just over 160 in all. Even a few of our seasonal members from Jamaica and members who have moved away responded.
The group worked on gluing the pictures to cardboard and taping them to the pews where each family would normally sit. Most faces had beaming smiles, while some jokingly pretended to be asleep or to be reading a children’s Sabbath School magazine. One clever member even turned in a picture of the Montana State University mascot, which rivals that of Jenkin's preference. (Jenkins referred to this gesture as most "disheartening" during the livestream amidst all the joy the pictures brought him. He would later place his favorite mascot next to it in the spirit of playful camaraderie.)
On Easter Sabbath, members couldn’t wait for Jenkins to see the surprise that awaited him and to hear his reaction. The thought of physically being together one way or another during these trying times was irresistible.
It was such a joy to see how the planned surprise succeeded. During the livestream, Jenkins acknowledged and thanked all his members for coming together for such kind act. He may have also blamed the falling snow of that morning for making his eyes moist and "emotional," but we all knew better. We were glad we were able to return the favor as he has also been keeping us together during this pandemic.
These were his words in a weekly letter sent out to his congregations: “In thinking how to start this update, I couldn’t help but look back on the awesome surprise that was awaiting me as I walked into the church last Sabbath. I couldn’t have been more blown away than I was, nor could I help but feel very loved and appreciated at that moment. That folks gave of their time and effort to put all of that in place made for a very special Sabbath. I truly want to thank all of those that participated and in a special way those that made it all happen. It will be something that stays with me for a long, long time.”
Along with the pictures, there were three cardboard pieces that displayed "Together in Christ." And that is ultimately the sweet reminder all of us needed during these difficult times — that we have never really been alone.