English Article: Modifying Practices and Adapting Services; A Pastor’s Reflection on Experiencing Church Life During the Coronavirus Spread
Pr. Dr. Geomon K George
Associate Dean, City Seminary of New York
Christian practices of hospitality, shared meals, holy communion, communal worship and sharing gifts has been the hallmark of a Christian’s shared life. These and other practices such as prayer have always been a bedrock in the countless situations when people of God have faced crisis and uncertainty. The spread of COVID-19 outbreaks has impacted our everyday life, and the way in which we experience church life. How are church leaders to respond during this coronavirus pandemic? How do we practice non-anxious presence when everything seems to be “shifting sands?” So, how we live together in the midst of this pandemic could be our best witness of the Gospel.
In our efforts to respond to this pandemic, science and faith are not in opposition. This global pandemic raises questions such as how did this virus originate? What are the symptoms? Are there any treatments? What will happen to me? Who will care for me? And, what gives me hope? During this evolving situation, the church has a responsibility to disseminate information from trusted resources. The proximity and familiarity of members and networks makes it easier to share information quickly and effectively. Through these efforts we will be able to reduce the community’s vulnerability by identifying particular populations that might be affected.
During this time, we must keep the church connected. This is necessary, but it is also difficult. How does social distancing affect our gatherings? In light of this developing situation around coronavirus, what are the ways of practicing “togetherness” in a time of “social distancing?” This will require a collective way of thinking about the norms of social interactions in our gatherings. How can we continue to walk alongside with each other, and stay connected in a way that makes everyone safe? Distance should not keep us from being disconnected.
This is also an opportunity to create an ecosystem that will flourish, not just survive this pandemic. Churches need to consider unique mechanisms to enhance church life. While we may not have abundance of resource, what it is that we do have. This means we pause and take a longer view of life of the congregation. What resources already exist in the church? Which technologies does the church need to invest in? From offering digital services to smaller gatherings, different congregational experiences could be offered to come together to pray and share our joys and concerns.
As we consider modifying practices and adapting services, being attentive to children is very important. Each person may respond of their feelings and fears differently. So, creating a safe space for them to share is crucial. Also, we must not forget to consider our neighbor’s welfare during this crisis. This pandemic has already changed our lives, and this will continue for a while. So, in loving God and loving our neighbors we are able to deepen our calling and sustain a quality of our life together even in midst of uncertainty.
As we consider the current events, we have to be steadfast in our faith. As practices that are valued and held dear to us needs to be re-evaluated, we trust in the One who has called us. The pandemic reminds us how interconnected and interdependent we are. Rooted in the Word of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, we turn everything over to the Lord, knowing that our future is secured in His hands. The questions of complexities of life draws us closer to God as we actively engage in God’s mission.
Finally, we respond not in fear, but with hope in the risen Lord. We are held secure by a loving and merciful God. While this pandemic touch all of our common humanity, we turn to Christ who said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)