Local church coming together for unique caravan prayers to protect community amid COVID-19
While the COVID-19 virus has temporarily stopped the Northridge Baptist Church congregation from worshiping in the chapel, members have found a way to stay together through prayer.
As roughly 40 vehicles lined up behind one another on Monday at the parking lot of the church, they made their way through the city of Mitchell for the second caravan prayer since the novel coronavirus swept into the area and altered traditional worship. After welcoming about 30 vehicles at the first caravan prayer that took place three weeks ago, Monday’s caravan prayer line grew to roughly 40 cars.
“The idea is to have church members and anyone in the community who are interested in the caravan prayer to be in their cars to maintain social distancing, as we follow each other all over the city trying to make sure we pray over all of the key areas of the community that have been faced with many challenges from this,” said Northridge Baptist Church Lead Pastor Ben Payne, pointing to local businesses that have been forced to close, first responders and health care professionals, to name a few. “We just want to help them and everyone in the community through this tough time even though we can’t be together the way we typically are.”
Despite each vehicle in the prayer line separately praying among the passengers, Payne has utilized technology and social media to offer anyone who wants to send in a prayer a request while the caravan prayer group is cruising around town.
“It was really cool to see how many people were sending in prayer requests on Facebook live, and there were prayers coming from people living in other communities,” Payne said. “I can’t imagine going through something like this virus without the technology we do have, but we are ready to get back to traditional gatherings.”
The caravan prayer idea caught the attention of another church congregation in the Huron community, as the Huron Methodist Church recently came together for a similar caravan prayer, Payne said.
“I believe the caravan prayer in Huron started to provide some protection in Beadle County, as the spread of COVID-19 has been quelled there since Huron did their caravan prayer,” Payne said of the Beadle County area which has seen just over 20 positive cases of the virus.
When the virus outbreak began impacting everyday life for many living in the community, Gina Reynen, minister of sending and equipping at Northridge Baptist Church, came up with the prayer caravan idea while she was leading a devotional.
“I was doing a devotional that talked about circling prayers, and I started to circle the city of Mitchell, personally, and pray for the whole community, churches and our health care workers,” Reynen said.
With the daily struggles and hardships that community members have been dealt due to the virus, Reynen took notice of several church members expressing that it was becoming a challenge for them to focus enough to pray with a clear mind and soul.
As she was having similar struggles, Reynen found a unique way to pray with a clear mind in her vehicle while driving around the community to pray for more people and groups.
During her first prayer drive around town, Reynen said she found herself praying for many people and areas in the community, including school kids who had an abrupt ending to the school year, health care workers and elderly people who have been faced with fears of being more at risk from the virus, to name a few.
“The mind gets so busy and so full during this time, and people started talking about how they were having a lack of focus as they were trying to pray at times,” Reynen said. “I thought this could be a great thing if we could all get in a big line to have about an hour to pray together even with being in separate cars to help us pray without a lack of focus.”
A positive outcome that has come amid the tumultuous times brought on by the virus, Youth Pastor Nate Holdeman said, is how the church has adapted to unusual circumstances and maintain unison.
“I think it has encouraged families to take more ownership of the spiritual well being of their family and friends and not leave it all for the church, like a lot of families do,” Holdeman said. “But I think we as a church are supposed to be complimenting them and helping them with what they are doing like we have with this caravan prayer. We’ve definitely bonded and have grown closer with one another over the past month.”
By coming together for the caravan prayers, Northridge Worship Director Casey Eitemiller said it’s created an even stronger bond among the church and the community.
“It’s been an interesting opportunity to hear some of the prayers and private conversations on the phone to dig a little deeper in people's lives, and I think that has been a blessing because we may not have those at a traditional worship service,” Eitemiller said.
While Reynen noted it’s common for more people to call on their faith in times of crisis, she said the unique challenges caused by the virus have provided an opportunity for Christian followers to reset their faith.
“I think we have such an amazing time at this point to take a look at how our relationship with God has been like before this, and what do we need to add for our fellowship,” Reynen said. “It’s important to know we are not alone, even though we can’t be with our congregation. We are still all in this together, and this is one way we have the blessing to do that.”