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Spiritual Sustenance

The Rev. Jim Culbertson: 'A kinder, more humane spirit'

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Apr 16, 2020
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds The Rev. Jim Culbertson is pastor of the Morrill Baptist Church.

Morrill — This week, we begin a series of interviews with Waldo County clergy concerning how their congregations are finding new ways to worship, to connect with each other and the wider community, and to find hope and encouragement in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Clergy interested in participating in the series should contact the editor at sreynolds@villagesoup.com or 338-3334.

Even though his church is not gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, the Rev. Jim Culbertson, pastor of Morrill Baptist Church, says he is busier than ever.

The church broadcasts services on Facebook (the page is Morrill Baptist Church), premiering at 6 p.m. Saturday evenings and 9 a.m. Sunday mornings, which are then available to watch any time, he said. He records part of the service in his office at the church, part is put together by the church's worship team, and there are also contributions from other church members. Anyone who wants to can come together via videoconferencing before or after the services for some social time. The church also has a YouTube channel, Morrill church.

In addition, there's a Bible study group on Facebook, a videoconferencing prayer gathering and Culbertson is teaching on Facebook Live from 6 to 7 each morning. He said the church has "a pretty decent Facebook following," with the worship services and his teaching drawing hundreds of viewers.

In addition to the virtual world, the church is still active in the larger community, with members calling elders and others who need to hear a friendly voice. They are also preparing food and shopping for groceries for those in need. The church is not doing much to organize these efforts, the pastor said, because members are aware of who has a need, and are taking care of those needs.

He said while fewer people call him on the phone than before, that is more than made up for by text and Facebook messages, adding that it is important for clergy, and anyone who cares for others, to take care of themselves and look to their own emotional well-being.

He said he had been noticing new names logging into the worship services on Facebook. "There does seem to be an openness and an interest" in making a spiritual connection, he said. When he offers to pray for someone in distress, something he finds himself doing more often lately, "I have yet to have anyone say no."

Despite the fear and anxiety, and the real harm done by the COVID-19 pandemic, Culbertson said, "I think humanity has come together like it's never come together before. ... It seems like there's a kinder spirit, a more humane spirit than before."

As one would expect, his ultimate source of hope and encouragement is in God. He noted that when things are going badly for us, "sometimes God has a broader plan." God does not exempt us from suffering, he said, but does promise to be with us through whatever comes.

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