The Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn Women of Salem Ministry hosts weekly prayer calls and prayer requests for women of all denominations during the coronavirus crisis.
“More people are going online for prayer and spiritual guidance than ever,” said Minister Carla Clarkson, Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn Women of Salem Ministry call leader .
According to Clarkson the level of participation has increased since the novel coronavirus outbreak. What was once a gathering of about 20 women now ranges between 50 to 75 women and more.
“When the women of Salem initially organized the calls about a year ago, our participants were mainly the women from the Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn, now we are experiencing a huge increase of other women coming in,” Clarkson said. “We are connecting folks, engaging more with members, and reaching women who normally would not come to church or join a prayer call before Pennsylvania’s shelter in place order,” she continued.
The Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn located in Abington Township, Montgomery County, abided by Governor Tom Wolf’s order to close non life sustaining businesses due to the coronavirus spread. Congregants have since not congregated at the church on Woodland Avenue but instead uses social media and technology to worship and praise.
“Church is within you and we are finding different ways to gather by way of service,” Clarkson said. “This is actually the way the church was before there were buildings people prayed in small groups. Jesus met in the upper room with his disciples. Women would pray together and meet by the river.”
The church has a history of being mobile. Clarkson referenced scripture Acts Chapter 16, Verse 13 about Lydia meeting other women for prayer by the river before the days of church goers to having mass services became common.
“Last week I prayed on the phone with a member who lost her husband of 50 years from COVID-19,” Clarkson said. “The need [for prayer] is at the forefront in a different way.
Forcing us into a different mode of service and fulfilling scripture without rushing to the church building to do it,” Clarkson explained.
Though the women’s ministry’s main message is about keeping faith, the prayer calls include discussions about current public health and safety concerns as well as day to day practices to help balance the new norm.
It also gives women the opportunity to talk about things that are bothering them during the pandemic.
“Our overarching message is to trust [God] and be still, however, there is uniqueness in this spiritual message now given our current state,” Clarkson concluded.
Reverend Dannita Brooker said “You don’t have to be a Baptist to join the call. All women are welcomed.”
“It’s for all women, regardless of denomination, regardless of religion, regardless of anything,” said Reverend Brooker, Salem Baptist Church Women of Ministry call leader.
Brooker rotates ministering on Monday evenings with Clarkson. The calls are held every Monday at 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time and the dial in details can be found on the church’s Facebook page.
“Due to covid-19 people have to stay in the house and life has changed drastically,” said Brooker. “This is an outlet for women to express how they feel and we are here to offer support. The ones that have children are talking about what it is like to have their children to be home all day and having to do their school work online. For some it’s about not having a job and others the challenges of working from home. Which can be very difficult for some.”
Callers can choose to be active participants and engage in the conversation, or quiet active listeners. The Women of Salem Ministry also accept prayer requests ahead of the calls.
“We strive to support and uplift each other. The best way to do that is with prayer,” Brooker said.
“It’s ok if you are mad and it’s ok if you don’t think God is with you, that’s a human reaction. God has not forsaken you. What is said on the call stays on the call,” she said.
“Sometimes we want things[change] to happen right away but it won’t be right away,” Brooker stated in reference to the COVID-19 plague.
Every Monday Avril Somerville sends out a text, an email blast, and posts information about the Monday prayer calls and the submission for prayer requests on the Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn’s social media.
In addition to keeping the glue together by handling the administrative responsibilities, Sommerville often leads the calls and shares words of encouragement as well.
“Prayer is needed and it helps people with what they are experiencing,” Brooker explains. “It’s giving us time to seek God. We were running here and there and we didn’t have time, now we have time. Let’s use it to really seek God and utilize our faith.”
Both Brooker and Clarkson mentioned that the church did not use much technology before the pandemic and relied on more traditional methods to worship. Today they’re on Facebook and Instagram and Sunday service is online.
“Our church is not a small church and we didn’t use as much technology before,” said Clarkson. “COVID has caused pastors to use technology to stay connected with their people.”
“Sometimes we have this thing where it is all about the building but that is not really the church. The church is within you,” said Brooker.“The building is just the building where you come to meet.
“My pastor [Marshall Mitchell] along with Dr. Ala are also going outside the church. That is what we are supposed to do. That’s holistic ministry. When you are a pastor you are supposed to minister to the entire person that is spiritually, physically and emotionally. Here we are going outside of the four walls of the church to connect with people.”
“We are still gathering, when we have our Monday prayer we are gathering, and we are still gathering when we have our virtual church services,” she said.