PHILADELPHIA (BRN) – As the COVID pandemic continues to ravage our nation and world, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control paints picture of this plague in numerical terms that are updated on a daily basis.  To date, there have been 45,571,532 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 737,990 deaths.

There is a person and a story behind each number represented by these sobering statistics.

Pastor Joe Nock of Second Antioch Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and a church member are included in those numbers. Nock contracted COVID this past January, but recovered. Sadly, a valued member of the church did not experience the same outcome after contracting the virus at a family event and later succumbing to the illness.

The realities of pandemic have deeply impacted Second Antioch’s church family, the effects of which still linger. “Many of our members have contracted the virus and some were hospitalized. Funerals were limited in attendance and some were almost totally virtual. Some members are still afraid to return to the sanctuary and attendance is half of what it was prior to the pandemic,” said Nock.

In order for ministry to continue, Nock and church leadership had to make changes.

The church established an online platform and upgraded their IT to accept tithes and donations electronically.

Some ministries were suspended including the use of choirs in the worship experience.

While bad news in generally associated with COVID, the pandemic has provided a new avenue for community outreach at Second Antioch.

The church hosts a weekly vaccination clinic on Wednesdays from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. in conjunction with its food pantry. This new ministry is made possible through a partnership with the Miriam Clinic and Temple University.

Second Antioch recently offered an iPad to incentivize vaccination. “While joining conference calls from state and local health professionals, it became obvious the many of our minority young adults were not taking advantage of opportunities to be vaccinated,” said Nock. “As a result of prayer and consultation with younger members of the church, we decided to offer an incentive of an electronic device (i.e., iPad) to encourage those who were not against vaccinations but simply not motivated to get the COVID-19 shot.”

Even though studies show that incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations doesn’t necessarily increase participation, Second Antioch felt obligated to do something to better protect its West Philadelphia community.

Another positive outcome of the pandemic is the personal growth that Nock has experienced. “The pandemic has grown me as a pastor by making me more disciplined with the length of my sermons, it has increased my faith through the support of the members and the added opportunities to be in solitude with God,” said Nock.

Although COVID-19 has generated sickness, death, grief, fear and uncertainty, we can rest assured that God is still at work in the lives of His people and that Romans 8:28 (NASB) is still true, even during a pandemic.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.