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Plague positive? Liberty church gladly goes viral

Kathy Daley - Reporter/Photographer
Posted 6/11/20

“Interesting times require change. Change can be disturbing. What we know is that God is with us.”

That's the COVID-inspired message running on the website of Vine & Branch Free Methodist …

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Plague positive? Liberty church gladly goes viral

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“Interesting times require change. Change can be disturbing. What we know is that God is with us.”

That's the COVID-inspired message running on the website of Vine & Branch Free Methodist Church on Route 52 in Liberty. Explains Pastor Ed Sostak: “The change is that 'normal' is now an unknown. Whatever you did that was 'normal' before will now require change - everything from how you go out to dinner to how you will worship God.”

“Change is not our enemy,” Sostak continues. “All of life is about change. The key is going to be how we handle the change. Change will define us one way or the other. It will either spur us on toward greater things or leave us feeling like we just missed the boat.”

Like most churches, Vine & Branch temporarily closed its doors in March due to the coronavirus.

“From the start we wanted to do our part for the safety of our people, as well as for the many communities we represent, live in, and love,” said Sostak. “We also wanted to demonstrate that we are called as followers of Jesus to respect our laws and the people in authority, be it our church leaders or our elected leaders.”

With the recent okay for New York State churches to open for groups of 10 or less, Vine & Branch is allowing a handful of its small groups to meet in person “with proper social distancing and safety measures practiced.”

Outdoor gatherings, now permitted for prayer and worship, are also likely to take place.

But for now, telephone and email still work well.

“We divided our congregation into 15 small “care” groups,” said Sostak. “The care group leader's role is to make contact, checking in on their group, encouraging them, and passing along any needs or concerns to us.”

Sostak and his wife, Pastor Robin, have done “front porch visits” with all congregants at least once and many church members have taken it upon themselves to write encouraging notes and deliver meals and other goodies to households.

In the meantime, the church's robust on-line presence is likely to continue even after coronavirus has abated. The VBC website at www.vineandbranchchurch.org includes links to its YouTube channel and Facebook page, where worship services complete with contemporary music are offered. Weekly pastoral messages along with bible lessons and teachings for children and adults are available.

“We also have an online Connection Card on our website that can be used to connect with us, send in a prayer request or alert us to any needs,” said Sostak, noting the church also uses Zoom or several weekly Bible study small groups and for ministry meetings.

“Our hope is to offer the Good News to those near and far,” said Pastor Ed. “Whether people attend our physical church or not, we would like to come alongside them in their faith journey as well as support them in all areas of life.”

“This is a great new opportunity for all churches - and this will also be one of our greatest challenges in our 'new' normal,” said Sostak. “In just weeks we are now positioned to disciple and encourage so many more in their faith journeys, far beyond our physical location. I believe this is just the beginning of how God will increase the 'kingdom' impact that local churches can have.”

It's one of many ways that God is using the crisis for good, he said: “God is not shaken by this pandemic and we need not be either.”

PHOTO: SOSTAK COUPLE AND CHILD

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