Brad Reid, pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Terrace, has had to ‘pivot’ several times during the past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted/Brad Reid)

Brad Reid, pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Terrace, has had to ‘pivot’ several times during the past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted/Brad Reid)

Skeena Voices | The church is not a building

Brad Reid, Zion Baptist Church pastor has had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic

Brad Reid, 42, is used to adapting. Born in Camrose, Alta., he spent his first years on the family farm before moving to Edmonton when he was in grade three. He would later go on to bible college, and become a youth pastor in Richmond B.C. He eventually landed in Terrace as the solo pastor of Zion Baptist Church, and is now adapting to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long before Zoom, public health orders or lock-downs, Reid was a bass trombone player in junior high and high school and saw music as his future career. He auditioned for the music program at the University of Victoria.

“During that time my youth pastor kept saying to me ‘Brad, I think you should go to bible college, I think you should get involved in ministry, in fact I am praying that that’s what you would do,’ and I kind of thought ‘well thanks a lot, I’ve got this career plan that I want to pursue and you are praying that it wouldn’t happen,’” Reid said.

As the months dragged on after his audition he applied to a bible college in Edmonton and was accepted right away. Then he got a call from UVic.

“The [professor] said ‘well you know there was four spots and you were number five on the list so well done,’ and then he said ‘well, actually one of those top four is going somewhere else so you are in,’” he said.

“All I can say is it wasn’t God saying audibly to me ‘do this’ but it almost might as well have been, just this clear sense of go to bible college and pursue that in terms of career, in terms of calling.”

After four years of bible college and his first permanent position in the small town of Crossfield, Alta., Reid moved to Richmond in 2004. Ten years later, he moved to Terrace with his wife and three sons. He said it felt a little bit like going back in time.

“I remember someone pulling out the Yellow Pages and calling the movie theatre, and not just looking someone up online and I thought ‘that’s kind of different,’ even back eight years ago there were not as many websites and that sort of thing for businesses.”

As a newcomer to the northwest, he found support from the Terrace Ministerial Association, a group of leaders from different Christian faith organizations that work together on different initiatives and events. Reid said without them, he might not have lasted in Terrace.

“What I found is that there’s a real camaraderie amongst churches here in town, I’m a solo pastor, I’m the only full time person on staff at my church and that was a change because the last church I was at had six, eight even people on staff,” he said.

“I’ve really valued the ministerial and it’s nice because it’s a broad range of churches, so there’s not always full agreement on some of the secondary things in terms of how we do church or some of the specific beliefs but in terms of the big picture stuff we’re definitely unified and we care for each other.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Terrace Ministerial Association’s co-operation was vital. One of the first ways Reid adapted was working with Joel Ringma, pastor at the Terrace Christian Reformed Church, to record Sunday services and post them on the internet.

“We did that for a number of months and that was really good because there was that partnership and that working together, it was very strange to have a more relaxed Sunday morning where I didn’t have the pressure or getting up and getting to the church building and getting things ready,” Reid said.

Early on, Reid and his church leadership decided that they would follow all orders and advice from local health authorities. He said Zion Baptist Church, and others in the Terrace Ministerial Association, have tried to go above and beyond health orders, not just the bare minimum. When restrictions started to ease, Zion Baptist did not gather the first Sunday they were allowed to, instead opting to take it slow.

“One of the things that we as a church really emphasized and I’ve been teaching on since I arrived here is the idea that the church is not the building, the church is not an event but the church is the people of God and so we can still be the church without being in the same building, without even seeing each other as hard as that is,” he said.

Zion Baptist Church has been able to use Zoom, which allows for interaction, music and a sermon. Even people from the Lower Mainland have joined in which Reid said has been neat to see. Zoom isn’t without its limitations though. Some members of Reid’s congregation live in areas with limited internet service, so he has made trips out to Old Remo and Rosswood to drop off Christmas cards or have a quick physically distanced chat.

Reid does not agree with the handful of churches in the Fraser Valley have challenged the public health orders restricting religious gatherings, pointing out that even though meeting over Zoom is not the same as in person, it is still a way to meet.

“The rallying cry is often a passage in Hebrews, which says ‘don’t give up meeting together, but continue to meet together and encourage one another,’” he said.

“But really the idea of that verse is if you have the opportunity to meet together and you choose not to, then that’s an issue, so in my mind it doesn’t really apply to this.”

“Maybe we don’t like not being able to meet [in person] together, but we really see it as a way to love our neighbours and to say even if it was our right, even if it went to the Supreme Court of Canada and they said churches have the right to meet together, I feel we can give up that right to try to care for people, so my church has been on board with that and has been very patient as we navigate, as we have mistakes, as I share the wrong stream on Zoom or whatever it might be, there’s patience and there’s humour.”

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