With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who wrote Love in the Time of Cholera, the world we’re in feels like it should be re-written by a magical realist. Because actual reality stinks.
The World Health Organization has declared pandemic status for Covid-19, the coronavirus. The WHO Director General said, “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
Here in the US, there are pockets of known outbreaks. And there’s a whole lot of the rest of the country that hasn’t been testing people. Which means it is, in all likelihood, already in places that don’t have known and documented cases. I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but it is time for all of us to change our behavior.
This article was helpful for me to understand why it is important to respond to the crisis before the crisis is visible. If we can slow the spread, we can reduce the burden on the healthcare system, which improves everyone’s outcomes. And this article is long but is full of really useful information, graphs, and data.
It is fair to say that seminary never prepared us to pastor during a pandemic. We’re doing the best we can even if we don’t have all the answers, as one Facebook post put it.
The church I serve has decided to worship on Facebook Live for the next three weeks, and is canceling in person gatherings of choirs, bible studies, lunches, etc. We recognize some people may not be able to navigate online worship, and might miss out. We may try to further adapt as we go along. We also realize that since people over sixty are most at risk when this virus hits a community, and since our church is largely in that demographic, we have a responsibility to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread as best we can.
I confess, it is a really difficult decision to make when everyone is feeling healthy and the sun is shining. But I also know if we wait until people in the neighborhood are visibly sick, it may be too late. I’m not sure there there is one right decision churches could make. I do think there are some wrong ones. If churches are deciding to meet in person, I hope they are modifying the way people are in physical contact with each other. I hope they are encouraging the sick and at risk people to stay home.
Here’s the letter we sent to the congregation.
I will miss being in worship in person with the people I love. I became a pastor because I love God’s people and I love worshiping together.I deeply feel this is the best decision we could make for us, but I grieve it too.
There is a lot of grief in our world right now. First, for the people who are grieving the deaths of loved ones from this virus. And for people who know their health is at risk, should they catch it.
My sons schools have just made the decision to finish out the semesters online and I grieve with and for my kids who are losing out, for a time, on the community that means so much to them. My kids have places to go, and access to the internet. Their disruption is real but not endangering. I worry for the kids who don’t have the financial resources or safe homes to which to return.
As public schools are closing to halt the spread, some kids are losing access to their daily free lunch. How can the communities come together to pick up that slack? For parents who have to work when their kids can’t go to school, how will they adjust?
For people who don’t have health insurance, or who don’t get paid if they don’t work, or whose jobs are canceling on them–how will they weather this storm? Major league sports are suspending their seasons. The million dollar salaries of the players don’t concern me, but the minimum wage salaries of the stadium employees does.
It is in times like these that church most needs to gather, to give people space to voice their lamentations and grief. And we still will, but it will need to look different than it has in the past.
If you’d like to worship along with us, this week would have been our Saturday service, so we’ll gather at 5 pm, Mountain time, at the church’s facebook page. We’ll hear scripture and a sermon, we’ll pray together. We’ll be church, together, if also apart, trusting that social distancing will help us all weather this storm.