The Rev. L.C. Ray adjusts to online sermons during COVID-19

ONLINE SERMON: The Rev. L.C. Ray preaches before his church’s empty pews, while his congregants watch from home through Facebook Live. Photo by Thomas Calder

In 49 years as a pastor, the Rev. L.C. Ray has preached to congregations large and small. But spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WNC Baptist Fellowship Church leader experienced a first on Sunday, April 26: addressing a computer amid empty pews while 50 or so of his congregants watched online from home.

His initial service was a tad shaky. “I just didn’t do my best,” the 81-year-old says. “It’s tough, but I’m getting more comfortable as the weeks go on.”

But as Ray’s beloved Scriptures say, there is a time to every purpose under heaven. “Doing these COVID services is causing me to get closer to the idea that you don’t have to be in the church for God to hear you,” he explains. “He’s everywhere.”

Along with religious guidance, Ray promotes safety measures implemented by state and local officials. As a senior citizen, the reverend knows he is among the most vulnerable. Meanwhile, based on available national statistics, he notes that African Americans account for roughly 34% of confirmed COVID-19 cases, despite representing only 13% of the population.

Still, the reverend says he understands the concerns raised by those arguing to reopen the economy. “When you’ve lost your job because of this, when you’ve been laid off and no income is coming in, it’s challenging, it’s hard, it’s beyond what other people could think,” he says. “But looking at both sides of it, we have to take the side of life. We don’t want anyone else to lose their life because of this.”

Not surprisingly, Ray finds solace during these trying times through religion. But his faith hasn’t mitigated all of his concerns and anxieties. Over his lifetime, the reverend says, “I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter what you know and how much you think you know — some things can make you afraid. And I’ve seen a lot of scared folk. I’ve been in that group as well. Even with faith, you have that fear. I guess that is the reason that we pray for God to give us more faith — but not to give us faith to take chances, but to give us faith to do the right thing. … You have to be concerned about others.”

This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at news@mountainx.com.

SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.