HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH RESPOND IN A PANDEMIC?
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective Church in America (as well as throughout the world) can be a valuable resource from a public health perspective. Values that are central to the church are especially important in situations like this:
- Valuing people over money/resources
- Prioritizing humility over pride/ego
- Listening to the vulnerable over the powerful/influential
Values such as these are central to the church and should be lived out in our daily lives. A public health crisis is simply the point in time in which these values become visibly practical rather than simply countercultural.
There are other habits of the church — such as meeting together weekly in a large group setting, participating in communion, and passing an offering basket — that might need to shift temporarily in the interest of the vulnerable among us.
A pandemic of this magnitude is an opportunity to ask ourselves: What is the true function of community?
Does a community function to meet together, or does it function to serve one another, to put one another first? If a community is based solely on seeing one another weekly, that’s more of a social gathering than a community.
There’s an opportunity, and an invitation, for growth into a more dynamic, loving group of people who are willing to disrupt their own routines and make sacrifices to prioritize the health of someone else, and who will fight for one another in both the short and long term. When we shift into this perspective of community, the comfort of routine begins to shift in favor of sacrifice for one another. Our priorities shift. This priority shift is extremely important.
COVID-19 should point us toward our need for one another.
Gaps in society can make people more vulnerable. For example, when schools closed down in your area, and the parents still needed to go to work, do the children have somewhere to go? Would they have something to eat? If someone in your community is experiencing anxiety regarding the virus, is your church equipped for the pastoral care of acknowledging fear and offering love and unity?
As this pandemic continues, the ways that our society has already failed the vulnerable will rise to the surface. Not everyone can afford to stock up on food and soap in advance.
People who rely on hourly wages may have those hours cut because of closures. Some have no insurance or have plans with high deductibles and cannot afford to see a doctor no matter how severe the symptoms get. Even those with insurance may not be able to stock up in advance on necessary medication due to insurance limits.
Social isolation may cause some within our communities to feel particularly lonely and devastated, especially if they do not have access to a computer or know how to use computers well. Some students who attend college campuses that are temporarily shut down may have no alternative housing or food options. All of these represent ways that community has broken down, but also opportunities for the church to step in and respond with solidarity and love.
COVID-19 forces us to push back against the narrative of self-reliance to remember that we all depend on each other. In the face of this, churches can mobilize to meet both the physical and emotional needs of their attendees and their communities, as well as to practice the perspective of putting the most marginalized, vulnerable folks at the center of decision-making.
This pandemic will reveal who we are. Hopefully it will reveal the type of love the Church should be known for, love that reflects Jesus and His heart for people.