BEREA, Ky. (KT) — William Dooley is used to wearing two hats but admits it hasn’t been easy being away from his students and members of his congregation during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“It’s different by far,” said Dooley, pastor of Middletown Baptist Church in Berea. “I certainly prefer to be with my students face to face, because of the relationships we make and those kinds of things.”
Dooley has served as pastor of his local congregation for nearly three years and teaches senior English courses at Madison Southern High School in Berea. He also teaches dual credit English and communication courses and public speaking courses at Eastern Kentucky University and Somerset Community College.
“The transition hasn’t been as hard on me as it could have been because I’ve done quite a bit of online teaching for both the community college and EKU,” he said. “I’m used to those things and really the work that comes with online teaching is primarily upfront work. You have to make sure everything is there when they need it and the make sure the directions are clear when the students are not there with you to ask questions.”
Dooley added being away from students in the classroom allows more flexibility but requires more accessibility. Dooley keeps in touch with his students daily through e-mail, phone calls and other forms of non-contact communication.
“You have to be available,” he said, “While we are not sitting in a classroom with students from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., we certainly have to be available by e-mail just about any time of the day. We want to get back with students as quickly as we can with questions.
“What we are doing in Madison County is we are calling students every day. We’re calling and checking in with them, making sure that they have everything they need and if they are having any problems. Most of them have said, ‘I’m just fine,’ but I have had a few who have said I have struggled with this or I have struggled with that and what do I need to do and I have been able to get them the help that they needed. That’s beneficial because those students may have reached out for help but they might not have as well and we’re able to get them the help they need.”
With the help of his congregation, Dooley is applying the same approach with his church, during these challenging times and added that churchgoers are stepping up to the challenge.
“I'm doing a lot of similar things here at the church,” he said. “I’m calling folks and checking with them, in particular our higher vulnerability population. We have a lot of senior citizens here at the church. Not exclusively, but we have a lot of senior citizens. We are calling and checking on them.
“This has given us an opportunity to develop some leaders. I’ve had some folks who have stepped up and said, ‘Let me call people for you, let me take care of this need, let me take care of that need.’”
Like many churches in the state, Dooley has used Facebook Live to reach out to his church members each Sunday and has gotten an assist from Westside Baptist Church Pastor Allen Livingood, who has provided his facilities to record Sunday services.
“That’s a new thing for us we hadn’t done in the past. I knew that we needed to do that, and had been working toward that, but this has forced us to do that. It’s kind of a learning curve for us, but that’s something that we’re doing.”
He also has been posting a daily devotional on Facebook.
“I’m seeking to help my folks to continue their devotional lives,” he said. “Maybe some of the folks don’t really have a very strong devotional life. I’m certainly encouraging them to stay in the word as we are not (in church). I’m posting a short devotion on each day’s reading on social media,” he said. “We are seeking to minister to our community as well. We believe as a church, we are to love our community and we are seeking out ways we can do that.”
Even using different methods, Dooley said both of his jobs work hand in hand.
“I love both of them and loving what you do certainly makes it easier,” he said. “They work together really well. Teaching and pastoring work well because many of the skills that one a good teacher are important for pastors as well.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21