As the sun begins to set over Vicksburg, members of the First Baptist Church gather at various locations around town for prayer, scriptures, and fellowship.
Church aisle devotions, said Reverend Ashton Thompson, associate pastor of education and administration at FBC, “is about getting people to connect, not just virtually, but in done, come together in a safe environment to make the social connections we were unable to make. do because of COVID. “
As church members gather for worship on Sunday, he said, âThere really isn’t an opportunity to interact, so with these aisle devotions we can still be socially distanced. and have a Bible study, and then we devote the remaining 30 minutes to social interaction.
âThe church is a family; the body of Christ and we all want to be in fellowship and do it in a safe way, âsaid Thompson.
He said the devotions take place at five different locations in the city. Some, he said, are in the aisles of people’s homes, but the majority are in different parks. The groups, he said, meet on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
âPeople can participate in more than one group, but generally we ask them to go to the group closest to their neighborhood,â Thompson said.
While each group defines their own format for conducting devotion, he said, each has three basic elements: prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. Materials for Bible study are provided by RightNow Media, a subscription service that provides streaming videos for Bible study.
âBible studies are online. Each member has an account on RightNow Media, âsaid Thompson. âThey can go watch the video that the group is studying and come to the group that night, and we have questions that we are reviewing.
âIt’s convenient. It’s just a lot easier for people to do their Bible study on their computers in the comfort of their homes or on their phones and come together as a group for a facilitator-led discussion.
Devotions begin at 6:30 p.m. and are usually led by a host and teacher.
âWe’re trying to get young parents to come home and put their kids to bed,â Thompson said of the early start. âEveryone gets together and being in the park allows the kids to play and someone to watch them.
âWhat we do is use lawn chairs and separate people so that they are safe but can still get along,â he said. âIt’s very successful; people say they really appreciate it because they still have bible study and fellowship. We were satisfied with it.
Devotions last about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes, although some may last longer, said Thompson, âBecause people like to be together. “
The only downside, he says, is the weather.
“We depend on the weather whether we meet or not,” he said, adding that the program could end once the weather cools.
“But at least it gives us the opportunity (now) to have this gathering while we can in a warmer climate.”