“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
The global spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19, has become a central topic of discussion and concern for many of us. It has caused us to think about the things we take for granted and to rethink how we go about the practices of our daily lives. During March we had to consider how we greet each other, how to conduct Holy Communion, should we cancel worship and encourage people to simply stay home and pray? And what about Lent? What about Easter? And what about offerings and finance and what about those using our buildings? What about a variety of other concerns related to the ministry we share? And then we had lockdown!
In the Church, this pandemic has caused us to consider and discover new ways to approach what have been longstanding practices and traditions; despite all our worries and fears we have found new ways to worship and even to gather together (although not physically). Whilst we cannot have face to face Elders’ Meetings and Church Meetings, and we certainly cannot gather together for Annual General Meetings at the moment, the work continues. Using telephone, computer, letters and CDs, using Zoom meetings, Facebook, WhatsApp and a whole host of other ways, we talk, we plan, we pray, we worship.
We still ask questions: How long? When? How do we protect the vulnerable? Our questions are valid. The concerns regarding the coronavirus are real. Real lives are being touched, and real lives are being lost, and real people are being affected by this pandemic. At the same time, we do not want or need to live in fear.
I, for one, have a long list of concerns related to the coronavirus. I am concerned for the elderly and the shielded, who are the most at risk. I am concerned for the disenfranchised and for those on the streets who have no-one and nowhere to turn. I am concerned for the loss of reason that seems to have overtaken so many in their own personal response to what is truly a communal concern. I am concerned that people are stockpiling supplies they do not need, so much so that those who do need them still are not able to find them. I am concerned for our hospitals and care
homes and our clinics, and for the doctors, nurses and carers who are all being stretched. I am concerned for our economy and for those whose lives will be impacted by the loss of jobs. I am concerned for a long list of things, for these and many more, but I am not afraid – nor should we, as a Church, be afraid.
Rather than live in fear, let us together approach this challenge in faith. We have an opportunity to show our children and grandchildren, our families and each other what a faith-filled and faithful response can be. Instead of living in panic and in fear, being reactionary and taking a self-centred response, we have a chance to remain rational and reasoned and to approach this pandemic in a spirit of trust.
Covid-19 does not appear to be ending soon. Chances are, before it goes away, it will hit even closer to home. It is in our city. It is in our care homes. It is making its way into our churches. It may well enter the lives of those we love. Be careful; be cautious; be wise and practical in what you do – but do not live in fear.
What I fear, more than Covid-19, is that we will forget who we are and whose we are. As a church, we need to take preventive measures now and in the future, and commit ourselves to prayer. We need to rely on the health professionals for advice and entrust our lives to Christ. We need to take full advantage of the resources we have been given and follow the best practices of those who can give helpful and health-giving advice. And then we need to step back and stay centred, and remember and remind each other that we belong to Christ.
Know that I am praying for you and for our churches. I am praying for our leaders and for those who will make decisions throughout the world. I am praying and I will continue to pray until the coronavirus is over, and beyond, but I am not afraid.
The apostle Paul says it well: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. We should be concerned. The coronavirus is real. But we cannot and we will not be afraid. We are the Church and, together, we belong to Christ.
God bless and keep safe,