Over the course of the pandemic, the regular highlight of my week has been a Thursday night Bible study. These studies are filled with grace, joy, laughter, prayer, and lots of music. They are proof that even in a pandemic when we could not be with each other, God is bringing folks together and working to bring about earth as it is in heaven.
Most of the members in the Bible study live at Peacehaven Farm, just a short drive east of Greensboro. Peacehaven is both an organic sustainable farm and a home for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Right now, four Core Members live full-time at Peacehaven along with two workers without disabilities. The other members of the Bible study are from FPC and other local congregations.
The Bible study began last summer, and was primarily the vision of a Peacehaven Core Member named Jeff. Individuals with disabilities are considered an at-risk population, so the farm basically shut down when the pandemic began. The Peacehaven folks were used to having lots of visitors and going out into the community, but all of that had to stop out of concern for health and safety. That is when Jeff had the idea to start a virtual Bible study. It’s not the same as being in person, but it was still a connection to the rest of the world outside of the farm.
Before the Bible study started, I had no idea how it would go. Most of the members had never met most of the other members when we began. I knew the FPC folks, but none of the other members. Similarly, some of the other members knew each other, but nobody knew everyone else. I wondered (and worried) how we would form a community with so many new faces, when we had never met in person.
Zoom meetings with folks that I already knew were awkward enough, but every time I had Zoom meetings with strangers, it seemed like we spent most of our time just staring at each other on our screens. It is difficult to open up to people you don’t know, and Zoom only makes it harder.
Nonetheless, we gave it a try. And it turned into something beautiful. It turned into a true community where we study scripture together, laugh and cry together, make music together, and pray for each other. Praying for each other is my favorite part, and the part that I didn’t realize that I needed.
As a pastor, I have spent time with plenty of groups and Bible studies at FPC, but my time with those groups is rather short. At most, I will spend a month to six weeks with a group, though it is more common that I will just join as a guest for one week at a time. In those short-term settings, it can be difficult to share the things going on in your life.
It was in the Peacehaven Bible study where I have found myself being most open to sharing and letting others pray for me. In this group, I know with 100% certainty that the others are praying for me and for each other. We keep up with each other, checking in weekly on how things are, in a way that is really only possible in long-term groups.
This week, I finally met the group in person at a picnic, which was such a weird feeling. I have spent every Thursday night with these new friends for almost a year, but I have never been in the same physical space as them. I am grateful for the members of this group, the ways that they care for each other, and for their willingness to engage in this virtual experiment. It has been a small glimpse into the Kingdom, where we celebrate the diversity of all God’s children and grace abounds.
If you are interested in learning more, read about Peacehaven and its mission here.