HOUSTON - This Memorial holiday weekend is more like Thanksgiving for one Houston-area pastor who is thankful to be alive after a near-fatal accident.
“Instead of focusing on your mask and your gloves think about the last 10 weeks and think about all that God has done for you,” proclaimed Pastor Chris Hartwell from the pulpit to a church with no congregation present. At a time when pastors are preaching to empty rooms, the preacher at Pearland’s Crossroads Community Church is happy to be here at all, since surviving a memorial weekend motorcycle wreck twelve years ago.
"It’s a miracle that I’m alive,” explains Pastor Hartwell who crashed while riding without a helmet. "The back wheel of my bike came off, threw me 30 feet off the bike, lying in the street dead they life-flighted me to the medical center. I was in a coma for several days,” the pastor explains.
So celebrating the Memorial Day holiday is now a bit odd. "There’s anxiety then there’s joy. Anxiety like whoa that happened, then joy, I’m still here,” he smiles.
Add to that the strange times of a pandemic where church members are virtual but now President Trump wants churches open again. "I’m going to open when it’s safe and right now it’s not safe". The pastor predicts his church perhaps will not reopen until August. “Church is not about the real estate. Church is about the people and you lack wisdom if you expose people to this environment and someone is sick. Imagine how that would feel if I’m preaching someone’s funeral who contracted this thing here in our church”.
The choir at Crossroads is down to six songbirds social distancing in the sanctuary on Sundays singing to empty seats. "God is supposed to be the focus and he’s the audience so we’re singing to God,” says Crossroads Director of Worship and Arts Paul Richard, who is challenging you to use this time to focus on your faith and become a better you. “It gives you an opportunity to grow, just like a seed when you plant a seed it’s in the ground by itself and it germinates in the ground then it sprouts up to be what it’s supposed to be".
Pastor Hartwell is encouraging everyone to creatively come together while staying safe from COVID-19 as he and his congregation have.
"Text groups and Group Me, all of these different social media platforms, we are connected now more than ever before. Even in the abnormal you can still pray. Even in the abnormal you can still worship,” says Hartwell who has been pastor of Crossroads Community Church for 18 years.