By Jessica Brodie
Toni Roberts Norris Taylor has a passion for Christ and helping other people and churches be all that God is calling them to be.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, she was already leading a weekly Bible Study class, Sunday School and small groups in-person. After all, sharing her faith in words and action is “a part of who I am,” said Taylor, a board- and professional-certified coach.
But when the COVID-19 lockdown forced churches and other ministries to stop meeting in-person, Taylor stepped out in a new way, taking her faith online. She has been leading a time of devotion, prayer and gratitude online not only for members of her church, but also for anyone who wishes to connect with her.
“Now it goes far beyond the walls of Grace UMC, Pickens, to reach many who are seeking an authenticity to their faith journey and for some a way to stay connected and engaged with a community of faith, even though they are at odds with the church,” Taylor said.
Taylor said God pushed her out of her comfort zone to share her faith with others during a time filled with uncertainty.
“I was witnessing the anxiety and stress daily changes were making in all age groups, jobs, church and home. Nothing was the same. Connections were different. Everything kept changing,” she said.
But, she said, out of change comes creativity and innovation.
On March 19, Taylor began sharing a time of devotion, prayer and gratefulness on Facebook Live at 8:30 a.m.
“In the moment of clicking ‘Go Live’ that first time, I took a leap of faith,” she said. “This was brand new for me, both Facebook Live and sharing my faith in public. The number of people that found me live and later viewed the recorded version was surprising. It gave me affirmation that I could make a faithful connection in other people’s lives and they could provide that same faithful connection for me during a time such as this.”
She has continued to offer this session daily throughout this season and gotten tremendous feedback.
One person commented, “You cannot imagine how much this time means to me each morning. Today, it especially spoke to my heart. Thank you for leading us so well.” Another commented, “Lord, thank you for Toni. Her sharing Your word is such a gift to us all.” Another told Taylor hers has been “a familiar and encouraging voice in an empty house.”
Taylor said people have been seeking out and craving the connection. She averages 50-60 participants each day.
She began a Wednesday evening Bible study on Zoom March 25. Participants are from many different churches, denominations and some not active members of any church. A gratitude study began April 16.
Taylor said she does not use a formal devotion book but a bullet journal in her devotion. She normally chooses a Psalm, then one or two other Scripture readings.
She responds to these bullets daily: What chapters/verses am I reading I from Scriptures? What are my questions, thoughts and how do I apply this to my life? Who am I praying for? What/who am I most grateful for today? How will I practice gratitude today? What are the three things I most want to accomplish today?
As businesses re-open and churches begin to look toward resuming in-person worship, Taylor said she is hoping to continue connecting with people. She has received many notes, cards and messages hoping she will still do online morning connections with prayer, devotion and gratitude even after things go back to a “new normal.”
To connect with Taylor on Facebook, go to https://www.facebook.com/tonirnorris. She is also online via Zoom, YouTube and other outlets.