Pandemic permeates our lives and faith
COVID permeates all the articles, even those that were not on that topic. The annual articles on camps all addressed adjustments that they are making. COVID cut the number of students coming to The Ministry Institute. COVID meant that Mission Community Outreach Center began offering online or phone orders for curbside pickup. COVID has changed our lives and how we do things.
Comments of faith leaders in the region offered insight into the impact of the pandemic, not just to moving online and following protocols, but also to what the adaptations mean in the long lens of how communities gather and live their faith.
Sermons, pastoral care, Bible studies, small groups, mission projects, community service, feeding programs, housing advocacy and annual conferences became tools for discerning what faith teachings and God had to say about the role, style, organization, ministries and mission of congregations and regional faith bodies—as well as nonprofits.
What is normal? How is it conducive for enhancing our relationship with God and with each other? What new normals have we discovered? How do they inform who we are as faith communities and what we are to be doing?
What are our habits? What habits are good habits? What habits are unhealthy?
We learned to wash our hands often—20 seconds or to a song. Soap and water actually break down the germs and viruses. Masks reduce other infections, as do distancing and cleaning surfaces.
What about the flu and colds? What will faith communities consider doing for the health of their congregations related to those "normal" but annoying illnesses? Have we learned insights and practices from COVID that might apply to our physical, mental and spiritual health?
Many miss the hugs and touches that have spread other illnesses that didn't grab as much attention. How will we apply learnings from COVID to how we do community, conversations, fellowship and food for the future to protect our communities' health and safety? Will we put blinders back on because we liked the way we did things? These are uncomfortable questions as we look in hope to return to in-person gatherings.
Will we carry on the incredible generosity that we have seen during the pandemic? There has been suffering, incredible suffering, and there have been needs, tremendous needs, all along. Will our generous spirits, once tapped into, overflow as our faiths would call us to do?
Will we still be attentive to search out and serve people in need, people we may have shunned, blamed or shied away from in "normal" circumstances? Have our hearts been opened in new ways, in lasting ways that may even mean we are more proactive with not only our generosity, but also with our advocacy to change policies that have inhibited opportunities and rights for marginalized, vulnerable people? We have seen the health inequities for some racial, ethnic, gender and economic groups. Will we continue to address those when the pandemic dissipates? Will our new awareness stick and make a difference?
How will we continue our online ventures, not only as means to reach more people but also as means to reduce driving to meetings to cut global warming?
How are we moved to put new flesh on the old bones of our habits, traditions, teachings and emphases as faith communities?
Perhaps the times ahead are the more challenging times, the real times we will stretch out of our comfort zones and reach out to more people in new ways, ways that will have impact on their health, wellbeing, rights, politics, security, safety, livelihoods, liberties and lives.
What is our calling for these times? Might God be calling us to pray, reflect and act on these realities together as we enter a time that may seem more "normal"? How is God calling us to be different?
Mary Stamp - Editor
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021