The Year of Coronavirus in Messianic Congregations – A Challenge and a Blessing

Tanja Shoshani, Project Coordinator

Picture of Christ Church hall

Picture of the Christ Church hall, in Jerusalem – the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East which also hosts a Messianic congregation. Photo courtesy of Bahnfrend via Wiki Commons.

Israel has now begun to lift the strict Covid-19 restrictions which have lasted a year. As of March, it is permitted for people to meet inside in groups of 20 if they are not vaccinated, or 50 people, if they are vaccinated. However, over the year, congregations faced many challenges caused by the invisible virus.

Israel is densely populated, and the virus spread rapidly in various communities, at different periods. The government used strict measures to control the serious situation. In March 2020, most Messianic congregations’ meetings were moved to Zoom and to other online platforms. This created challenges here in Israel, as in other parts of the world. Weather permitting, some congregations have taken the opportunity to meet outside in parks. Home groups have also been operating when it has been possible, within the restrictions.

I had the privilege to interview someone from a congregation in Tel Aviv and one pastor from central Israel about the impact of the epidemic on their congregational life. I asked them how their congregants dealt with the situation.

The pastor from the central congregation reported that the pandemic caused much fear and anxiety. The constant uncertainty, high unemployment rate and changing status quo affected people badly. The thoughts of many turned to the End Times. The pastor taught a bible series throughout the year through Zoom. He feels the best possible encouragement and consolation comes from the bible, even when uncertainty surrounds us. The word of God encourages directly in all situations.

The person from the Tel Aviv congregation noted that, despite the practical nature of participating in various events from the comfort of your own home, the contacts remain virtual. During the year, many community members missed genuine human contact. Unfortunately, there are also those who have kept away from the congregation all year. Will they return now that face-to-face meetings are again permitted? No one knows. There were also technical challenges, and the congregation had to acquire new video equipment to make it possible for people to join the events. Due to the fear of Covid-19 infection, many senior members did not have courage to leave their home, nor did they wish to have visitors. The staff stayed in contact with them by phone.

Both interviewees observed that the situation people found themselves in caused many to reflect on spiritual matters, and new members have joined the congregations. In addition, the interviewee from Tel Aviv happily reported that some members who had earlier drifted away from the community, have now re-joined it. Many have also begun sharing their faith at their workplace and with others they come into contact with.

It seems the uncertainty experienced at so many levels has strengthened the faith of the believers and their relationship with God who is our source of everything. Prayer, too, the core function of the congregation, has been strengthened. The coronavirus epidemic has been a great challenge, but congregations have found new ways to meet and pray together. Also during challenging times, it is life-saving to have a connection with God and with the sisters and brothers in Yeshua.