Even though life has slowed down for many people, COVID-19 has robbed peace. Many people are stressed, anxious, lonely, and uncertain.
“I think right now is such a chaotic time,” said Ashley Bonnes, who co-pastors Lafayette CRC in Indiana with her husband, Mark.
But Ashley and Mark have hope for how God is working in and through the church during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why the pastor couple is using this time to invite their church community into a deeper relationship with God through spiritual practices they’ve learned at Deeper Journey—a learning community for believers to grow in their relationship with Christ.
Experiencing God’s Word in Fresh, New Ways
“I’ve always been a Christian and I’ve always known the importance of reading the Bible, of praying every day,” said Ashley.
But sometimes, God’s Word felt stale.
That’s one of the reasons Ashely and Mark joined Deeper Journey. A two-year commitment, Deeper Journey helps shape spiritual practices for a lifelong relationship with Christ. Peter Kelder, Resonate’s Regional Mission Leader for the Central United States region, and his wife, Ruth, worked with other ministry leaders to bring Deeper Journey to the region.
The retreats and spiritual practices of Deeper Journey have encouraged the pastor couple to prioritize spending time alone with God each week in prayer and Scripture.
“Those dedicated times of silence and solitude and stepping away from the busyness of life have been really life-giving to me because God has met me there,” said Ashley. “God’s Word becomes alive to me, and I feel God speaking to me, and I feel God’s presence...I would say I’ve experienced that more in the past year than I have in quite some time.”
Deeper Journey made Ashley wonder if people in her church had been struggling to hear God’s voice. She and Mark discussed how they could bring what they learned to their church.
When COVID-19 hit, they found a perfect opportunity.
Finding Rest in God during a Chaotic Time
“As soon as we started hearing the stay-at-home orders, we started discussing how we can do church differently,” said Ashley. “Immediately, Mark and I said we felt like we needed to add another touchpoint in our week.”
They set up a mid-week online gathering and used materials and practices from Deeper Journey. The first week, Mark hosted a prayer night. The second week, Ashley led members in lectio divina. During a stressful and anxious time, the Bonnes have been able to invite their church community to find peace and hope in God. To experience God’s presence in new ways.
“This helps us breathe into the chaos and remember the truth we have about who God is, and who Christ is, and these firm foundations that we have of faith … I think this slowing down and resting is really good at a time like this.”
Strengthening and equipping church leaders is one of the reasons Peter hosts Deeper Journey in Resonate’s Central USA region. He said it’s important for leadership, discipleship, and mission.
“Whether that mission is helping out congregations … or as we talk with those in our day-to-day life who don’t know God yet. How do you talk about prayer, how do you talk about God, with someone who doesn’t yet know him?”
Peter is thankful that Deeper Journey is providing support that Lafayette CRC needs during COVID-19.
And Ashley said she’s seeing God at work. People in her church are seeking God, and more people are tuning into worship gatherings.
“I’m really hopeful for the church during this time,” she said. “I think the church as a whole is being a witness that we have something more foundational ... it’s a time of opportunity for the church to really shine.”