Last week, The Rev. Jolinne Balentine-Downey of Embury United Methodist Church in Millington received notice from Bishop William T. McAlilly, the bishop of the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, suggesting that all churches in the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences consider suspending worship services for at least two weeks to lessen the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Balentine-Downey was shocked, but she understood that it was in her community's best interest to comply and move her sermons and devotionals online.
"I was stunned," she says. "But I really respect our bishop, and I felt like what he was trying to convey is that it isn't just about our particular congregation and what's best for our membership, but it's about what's best for the community and our country."
- Julia Baker
- Rev. Jolinne Balentine-Downey
She adds, "I've been posting devotionals for a couple of years, and people seem to really respond well to it."
This past Sunday, Balentine-Downey posted a sermon, inspired by Adam Hamilton's book 24 Hours That Changed the World, discussing Jesus' ability to resist temptation to stay silent to save his own life. She says this message could translate to the pandemic at hand.
"We're all in a new era, and none of us have ever dealt with global pandemics before," she says. "We church leaders have had difficult decisions to make, and not everybody's going to like the decisions you make, no matter what you decide to do."
Balentine-Downey says it's important to think creatively in order to spread God's message, especially in times like these.
"I believe God is always present with us all the time," she says. "We're never completely alone, and it's important to share the message that He loves us and provides for difficult times."
To watch and listen to The Rev. Jolinne Balentine-Downey's devotional messages and weekly Sunday sermons, follow Jolinne Balentine-Downey on YouTube.