BELLEVILLE, Ill. – With everyone staying inside during the COVID-19 outbreak, one Belleville pastor has found a way to stay fit and in touch with his people in his neighborhood. Maintaining his health and his ministry, seven miles a day.
“I’ve run just under 44 miles in the last week and a half. I’ve kept track of my totals and things,” says Andy Black, associate pastor St. Matthew United Methodist Church. “But I take Fridays off as my personal Sabbath and Sundays off, because obviously I’m worshipping.”
Seven miles at a time, winding through the west end of Belleville, Mr. Black is the man in blue. Waving, stopping, and praying with neighbors who want to share in prayer, at a space of more than six feet apart.
“If somebody flags me down, stand at the doorstep and pray with me, I’ll either stop or pray with them or I’ll pray as I go by, depending on what the situation demands,” Black says. “Otherwise, they’ll tie a ribbon to their doorpost or mailbox, a colored ribbon.”
Keeping connected with members of his nearby St. Matthew United Methodist Church and learning the terrain, Black is keeping up the pace and the faith.
“It’s hard not to go to church,” says neighbor Jamie Palmer. “But it’s great that they’re thinking about the congregation and the neighborhood itself, which is always a great thing in this day and age.”
With a mandatory shelter in place still very much in effect for Illinois and the St. Louis region, Pastor Black will continue on with his running ministry mix.
“Somebody waving to you and saying, ‘Hey, you’re praying preacher?’” Black says. “And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, can I pray for you?’ And they will say yes and it’s those sorts of things that give you the encouragement to continue.”