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Pandemic tests and strengthens the faith of Tulsa church leaders

Belview Baptist Church.jpg
Posted at 8:53 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 14:22:18-05

TULSA, Okla. — The pandemic tested the faith of churches all across our state in more ways than one.

Some pastors say their faith has been their anchor in the midst of this pandemic. Pastor Tom Branch of Belview Baptist Church said his Sunday services changed from in person to virtual like many churches across Green Country.

“We have an elderly congregation in some ways, and we know how at risk they are,” Branch said.

He said it has not been the same since last March.

“What we find that our people miss is the fellowship,” he said.

His congregation averages about 100 people on a typical Sunday, but the pews have been empty. He said the pandemic tested their faith and even re-framed the way he leads his church.

“It has been healthy to make us take a couple steps back and say why are we doing this, or why are we doing that are we just doing it because we’ve always done it this way? And making us examine and re-examine just about every facet of our ministry,” Branch said.

Branch said in December church finances took a slight dip, forcing him to lower how much he pays church staff. Despite it all, he credits God for his provision in this time of uncertainty.

“God has really blessed us; we’ve been able to stay pretty much even,” Branch said.

Just 20 minutes away from Belview Baptist Church sits First Christian Church of Jenks Disciples of Christ. It's congregation, 50 people. Their doors stayed open through the pandemic.

“Just by having the windows open and the doors open people see hope, people know that things are going to be alright,” Dean McDaniel, Senior Pastor said.

McDaniel said it's been a perfect opportunity to live out his faith more than ever before.

“It’s one of those experiences that you’re in life and you’re like -- okay God let me see how you get me out of this mess,” Dean said.

The virus has not been the only storm that tested their faith. The ice storm caused a water break flooding in major parts of the building.

“We said okay God, let’s see how you fix this up,” Dean said.

Dean said with no time, restoration crews showed up to make repairs. While they managed to stay afloat, he recognizes their story might be much different had their doors closed.

“We would really be going under water, but we’ve been doing great,” he said.

Both pastors said they are planning to host Easter Sunday services with social distancing and face masks.

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