“Teaching in a Pandemic” by Ron Woodruff

I recently had a colleague publish a thank you letter to our teaching staff for going “above and beyond” our daily responsibilities. It caused me to reflect on this past year and how we, as a teaching staff, have persevered through this unprecedented year. It has been a struggle with overwhelming challenges, but ultimately, it has also had positive moments of triumph. Moments where God’s influence, grace and guidance were vital for my peace of mind.

Although the fall was the beginning of my 29th year of teaching, it felt like my first. I had one week to get ready for the start of the year, which required learning new online platforms and curriculum. Behind the scenes, while the state grappled over school funding, there were late budget concerns that caused teacher layoffs, and ultimately, a massive scramble to solve the scheduling problems. Although my job was safe, it was still impacted by the day to day schedule changes. For example, during the first two weeks, I was teaching American Literature, and suddenly, the next day, it changed to a combined class of Journalism and Digital Media. I was expected to teach my advanced newspaper along with an introduction to media class. Like everyone, I had to adapt.

Ron teaching in classroom following Covid mask policies.

To make it all work, I had to totally immerse myself into school with every available minute. I take pride in being organized and strive to control how my classes function and flow. So, I pushed myself to make it work, to overcome and thrive in this new environment. Because of this desire, it was not uncommon for me to be up until midnight, making sure my lessons would function online for the next day. I put everything in my life on hold. I felt like I didn’t have time for my family, my friends, or even God. Looking back, God was there, and he used each situation to guide and influence me, even though I was too overwhelmed to know it at the time.

Yet, I had it easy compared to those teachers who had young children. They also had to manage how to support their family while teaching. This became especially hard when we would go virtual, and those teachers were trying to Zoom from home while their own children were also trying to learn. Often their children needed help, but they had job responsibilities that took priority. Furthermore, most of us had never learned to use technology the way we were expected to use it, and I couldn’t imagine trying to manage school while also supporting young children. We encountered new online software like Schoology, Zoom, Loom, Kami, Edpuzzle and many other programs. When we started, teachers did not have a good grasp of all this new technology, and every day seemed to bring new challenges. Students faced issues with their devices, and there were daily internet problems. These issues were constant disruptions. It was well into November before the technology demands began to slow down, and it was during that time I noticed little triumphs of how God was using people to support others.

“It was during that time I noticed little triumphs of how God was using people to support others.”

Ron Woodruff

We needed to support each other because we were being asked to educate students face to face and online, simultaneously. We were sitting at our desks, trying to communicate and teach passionately with both online and in-class students, and never knowing when, at the drop of a hat, we would be sent home to total virtual. It was overwhelming! There were so many things to remember that I even found myself on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I remember one day sitting in front of the computer, just clicking buttons because I couldn’t focus. I even said to myself, “What are you doing?” It is the only time in my career that I didn’t feel in control. The only time I felt inadequate. That is when my wife was there to help. That was when my colleagues were there to support me. I had learned a great lesson that I was trying to do everything on my own. I believed I didn’t need anyone’s help. However, God knew better. He knew my limitations. So, he provided support.

“I believed I didn’t need anyone’s help. However, God knew better.”

Ron Woodruff

God knew it was time for me to stop trying to be perfect and let Him intervene. It was time to realize I was not in control, and God’s grace was there to comfort me. I realized that He had placed people in my life who were there to support me through these uncertainties. My wife, family, colleagues, and pastor were all there in different ways to guide me through the fear, the stress, and the frustrations. It helped me understand that I also needed to be a better servant of God so that I could be there for others during these challenging times.

Week by week, I didn’t know whether I would remain in face to face teaching, or because of COVID quarantines, move to online. I had to be ready for both. However, this also impacted students and parents, and I needed to be sensitive to their needs. Many students were too unorganized to keep up with virtual work. They no longer had teachers looking over their shoulders or reminding them of what was due, and with parents working, nobody was home to monitor classwork. Many procrastinated while others simply shut down completely. Instead of the usual stresses, I was now facing new problems. I found myself frustrated and totally focused on myself. I only saw my problems and my needs. Ultimately, I needed God’s grace to shine through me. I needed God to use me as a tool of support for these parents and students. I needed to stop focusing only on my needs and to understand the situations and needs of others. Once I started focusing on how I could help them, everything else seemed to work itself out.

Now that the year is coming to an end, I can reflect and remember where teachers and students were and how better it is now. I can see the triumphs of how we persevered through fear and uncertainty. Overall, God showed me my weaknesses, and he taught me the importance of fellowship. I learned how meaningful relationships are especially when life is not easy. He taught me that I can not do life without support. I do not have all the answers. I will struggle; I will fail. But, with the grace of God, I can do all things. I learned how He has surrounded me with amazing people. Loving, caring people who understand me and are always there to help. In all, this lesson has been a teaching triumph, and I hope it has prepared me to be a better person, educator, and servant of God.

This article appears in the June-July 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

JPCM Winter Covid Procedures

Jackson Personal Care Ministry has moved indoors, but with different procedures than prior to the pandemic. Here’s what you’ll experience if you come to Jackson Personal Care Ministry this winter!

The pantry is open from 5 – 6:30pm every Thursday, except on holidays. The pantry is now serving guests using the front entrance to our Education Building. Guests will form a line outside the front entrance of the church and wait to be called inside one by one. There will not be more than 2 guests inside the pantry at a time.

Most wait times for guests are during the first 15 minutes of the pantry being open. On cold nights, arrive after the initial rush to reduce your wait time outdoors. To enter the building and receive pantry items, guests must wear masks inside the building. Guests must also provide their name and a Jackson county address at check in in order to receive products. No paperwork is being checked to verify proof of residence during the pandemic procedures to minimize contact.

Products are provided pre-bagged to minimize contact and reduce time inside the building. Each week the bag will contain soap, paper towel, and toilet tissue, plus another toiletry item in rotation. There will also be one of the three cleaners (dish soap, laundry soap, all-purpose cleaner) to take. Feminine products are always available, and we try to have lip balm as well.

The church’s volunteer schedule has resumed, but with the new procedures, volunteer requirements are reduced to 3 or 4 workers per Thursday. For those who wish to support the pantry, you can donate to JPCM directly through our website giving app or by sending us a check in the mail with JPCM in the memo.

Phase 3: Worship live or online

We are entering into phase 3 of our reopening onsite activities. Read more about our phases here.

The sanctuary is now open for those who wish to join us in person for our livestream worship service at 10 a.m. Sundays. Watch our announcement video from Pastor Dallas below. Continue reading below to read more about the guidelines and expectations around being onsite as we seek to minimize the health risks while together.


Here are guidelines concerning being onsite for worship now in Phase 3.

  • If you are feeling sick, do not enter the building. If you start to display symptoms of COVID-19 after having been in the building, please reach out to the church office promptly.
  • Masks must be worn inside the building.
  • Worship in the sanctuary is the only Sunday activity being offered at this time. When you enter the building, please make your way to a seat in the sanctuary.
  • People should remain 6 feet apart (unless you are in the same household). When sitting in pews, leave 2 empty pews between you and another person.

Welcoming Spirit

We want a spirit of trust and a non-judgmental atmosphere to exist throughout our church in this season. Please, do not judge your brother or sister for their choice of how to worship in this moment. Some may choose to worship online for a while. Some will be back immediately. Some will be week-to-week in their comfortability of attending. Let’s pray for each other.

Be mindful of the language you use during this period. It can hurt someone to ask, “Where’ve you been?”, which can feel layered with judgment. If you shift your language ever so slightly, and say, “I’ve missed you. How have you been?”, you might lift up someone’s spirits.

Phases of Reopening


We want to share with you a big picture overview of what’s coming next at FBCJXN. After about 3 months of restrictions, we are excited to enter into Phase 2, a time of preparation of our building, our volunteers, and most importantly our spirits. Our big change in phase 2 is that we are moving from prerecorded worship to training a team of volunteers to livestream our worship, so that we can continue to invite people to worship with us online, even when onsite worship returns in Phase 3. Phase 2 should not last long, but it requires volunteers to help us move forward.

One of the big requirements to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and on-site worship is the need for volunteer support, particularly to maintain our online worship presence as we transition to livestreaming worship. Continuing online worship enables vulnerable individuals to continue worshiping with us from the safety of their homes, as well as guests, those traveling, shut ins, and more who would be unable to worship with us otherwise.

Watch the video below to hear Pastor Dallas explain the big picture overview of our phases of reopening, our volunteer needs, and an exciting in person, outdoor opportunity for Sunday nights throughout Phase 2.

Volunteer Needs

Would you like to be a part of helping spread the message of God’s love and good news to those who can’t be with us in person? We have 4 types of volunteer opportunities that will be receiving training very soon, and we could use your help.

  • Sound Board Operators – Our sound board controls both the audio to our on-site speaker system, but also a separate feed online. Knowledge of sound boards and audio is a plus.
  • Camera Operators – Our camera operators help make sure that our leaders and speakers are in the video frame. Knowledge of video cameras is a plus.
  • Propresenter Computer Operators – Propresenter is a software that helps overlay lyrics, graphics, etc. on the video feed as well as streaming the video to our online worship platforms. Knowledge of computers and video software is a plus.
  • Social Media Hosts – Our livestreams need hosts to welcome online attenders, invite and offer prayers, and moderate any unwanted posts by online trolls.

If you’re interested in helping with any of these four volunteer positions, please email or call the church office (517-784-3151).

On-Site Closures (COVID-19)

While on-site activities may close, you can continue to worship with us online. Visit our online worship page to worship with us.

Update: July 8, 2020

The church is entering Phase 3 of reopening, with limited operations and a blended single worship service that is available live online as well as in person with safety measures. Learn more about phase 3.

Update: June 10, 2020

Our church is entering into Phase 2 of it’s reopening, a time of preparation for on-site worship and for transition to livestreaming to continue our online worship opportunity in a sustainable way going forward. Read more.

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Since last Friday’s Executive Board meeting, our government leaders from the President to the Governor and on down have directed and mandated even greater separation and social distancing with each passing day.  This week, we’ve learned of the first presumptive positive test in Jackson, an employee who worked near the church. To be good neighbors and contribute to the greater good, the FBC building will remain closed for now. We will follow the lead of our schools and keep the building closed at least through Friday, April 3rd.  A reevaluation will be made prior to April 3rd to determine if we will be able to congregate for Palm Sunday on April 5th or not.  Until then, we still have plenty of opportunities to be the church everyday. Let’s see what new things God might do in the midst of this time.

Original Notice from March 14, 2020

Church leadership has been in contact throughout the week as we’ve watched the developments of the spread of COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus). The Executive Board met Friday night, March 13, and has decided to cancel this week’s on-site church activities, including on site worship on Sunday and the Wednesday night Lenten dinner and program. We are called to love our neighbor, and we hope that not meeting in person this week will help protect the vulnerable in our church and in our greater Jackson community.

While we will not be gathering in person for worship, we are not closed. We will be providing an online worship service that will be available Sunday morning at 10am on our Facebook page. Anyone can watch! You don’t have to have a Facebook account to watch. The video will become active at 9:55am, and show a 5 minute countdown leading to the start of service. We will send more information out either later tonight or early tomorrow morning to explain in more detail how to access the video.

While on-site church gatherings are closed this week, our staff will still be available, coordinating efforts to support the vulnerable in our midst. If you need help in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, please contact the church office. We have several individuals who have already expressed desires to help with delivering groceries and other supplies for those who need to stay home. If the risk of exposure is high for you and you could use assistance, please reach out to us.

Expect to hear more from us in the upcoming days as we continue to follow the health recommendations of our state and city. You can follow many of those recommendations by checking the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Communications about safety and closures will be communicated by email, alongside postings on the website and Facebook. Known individuals who attend worship without emails will be contacted by phone.

Please stay safe. Use this opportunity to point people to the peace of Christ amidst the chaos of the world.

JPCM Closure

For the safety of its guests and volunteers, the Jackson Personal Care Ministry will be closed indefinitely as of March 11, 2020.

This decision is in keeping with the governor’s decision to cancel gatherings of 100 or more people, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

We hope to find a way to provide at least cleaning products and soap during this pandemic to those who depend on JPCM for these products.

For up to date information on the JPCM, follow their Facebook page.