COVID-19 and the Church
Over the past few days I’ve read a number of articles, emails, and Facebook posts about the implications of COVID-19 for the Church.
Each of them has explored what precautions we might want to take, as a public gathering – whether we should avoid shaking hands at the peace, what to do about communion, and the like.
And ok, I get it. We want to be responsible when it comes to the health of those who gather for worship. Especially for those of us in denominations with a significant number of older people. So sure, let’s be sensible, listen to and follow the advice of experts (people who have years of professional training in knowing about how diseases spread, not people who just read something on the internet), keep one another safe.
But does that really define the Church’s response to COVID-19? If I learned anything from Church History (that’s a big ‘if’, but go with it), it’s that much of the growth of the early Church came in times of contagious disease – and it wasn’t because the Church was sensible and cautious and careful to quarantine itself – and it certainly wasn’t because they made sure they had enough toilet paper. It was because the Christians were the ones who were willing to care for others, even, sometimes, at risk to themselves.
Of course, you don’t help anyone if you become a vector for infection (see “follow the advice of experts” above). But how about we think a bit more about what we can do for others in the face of COVID-19?
Are there people in your neighbourhood who are (for good reason or not) isolating themselves? Make sure they aren’t abandoned. Phone for a chat. Offer to go to the shops for them. Drop a meal off for them. Check they have enough toilet paper.
Elderly neighbours? Check in on them. See if they’re worried, let them know they can call you if they need anything.
Your local Chinese community is probably having a rough time right now. So yes, eat at a Chinese restaurant, shop in Chinatown, show up, be friendly.
Family, friends, relatives who are far more worried than seems justified? Be a listening ear. Yes, be a source of good quality information (see “experts” above), but understand that fear is not rational, and showing you care is more important than showing you are right.
And if you have stockpiled food or medicines or toilet paper, make sure those around you know that they are welcome to share it. You didn’t just buy it for yourself, right?
I don’t know if the current level of concern about COVID-19 is overblown, understated, or just right. And I’m not an epidemiologist, so even if I told you what I thought, you should just ignore me (see “experts” above). But I do know that the call of Jesus places a higher value on caring for others than on looking out for ourselves.