Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 CEB
As we face the pandemic of the corona virus (called COVID-19) we are experiencing what has become a literal global state of anxiety. The corona virus is not new but with a small adaptation, has become significantly more virulent, particularly among those with weakened immune systems. The occurrence of globally transmitted infections is commonplace, particularly with advances in transportation. The thing that makes this different is its effect upon the most vulnerable among us.
In the Bible, the word “pestilence” was used to mean deadly infections that often overwhelmed entire populations. It was not uncommon and the Psalmist identifies pestilence as one of the things to be delivered from in Psalm 91. Let’s remember that the development of antibiotics is a twentieth century phenomena while anti-virals are still very much in their infancy. Medicine was more folklore than science then. Populations were completely vulnerable. It’s interesting to note that the Psalmist does not pray to avoid the pestilence because exposure to the source of the pestilence was considered impractical and even impossible. Regularly occurring infections was a way of life. One hundred years ago, nearly 40 million people worldwide lost their lives due to the influenza virus. Countless others died of undiagnosed fevers, gastrointestinal maladies, breathing problems and seizures that we now know were due to infectious agents.
I share that to put this pandemic in perspective. It’s not that we do not need and desire to take every precaution to stem the spread of COVID-19, but we need to recognize that pandemics like this have been going on for a long time. It didn’t just sneak up on God. Perhaps, God has equipped His Church for such a time as this.
Church historians speak of the early church offering treatment and care during various pestilences and demonstrating the great commandment to love others at significant personal costs. During times of crisis, the church often shines brightest. It should surprise no one that the greatest movements of the Holy Spirit today are born amidst adversity.
So, if this is not uncommon and the people of God have traditionally advanced the kingdom through times like this, what shall our response be?
- Recognize that God is still on the throne and commit to acknowledging and demonstrating that every opportunity that you have. Should we be concerned, particularly for those most medically and economically fragile? Absolutely. Should we be afraid, no. Fear amplifies and distorts the threat and promotes reactions as opposed proactive responses.
- Develop and empower your prayer ministry. Pray for the community’s wellbeing and the Church to a blessing to the community. Pray for those most at risk. Pray to be an answer to your prayers and the opportunity to help meet the needs of your anxious world.
- Heed the collective wisdom of public health officials both on the national level (cdc.gov) and your local health agencies. If they recommend restrictions in gathering, respect them. The public health goals are two-fold: strategies to reduce the spread of the virus and lessen its effects, particularly on the most vulnerable.
- Vigorously combat disinformation. There is quite a bit of well-meaning but deadly advice out there. Keep the line of communication clear to your church members and community. Develop regular communiques and strategies to share updates.
- Employ technology to promote worship, fellowship, Christian education, prayer, and service. If your church is social media illiterate or lacks the technology for live streaming, contact the conference office for assistance. Remember that most can still participate in conference calls.
Many churches are confronted with the financial reality that comes with with inability to gather physically. The FMC Board of Bishops and top administrative staff have been gathering to strategize how they can help. At the conference level, we are looking for means to make technological resources available for congregations and reduce obligations. Every church should have an online platform for giving. IF you do not, please contact your District Leader or the conference office for recommendations. With online giving, challenge our churches to give, not from obligation, and not simply to pay for fixed costs (although those are important), but to enable the church to be the church and bless others.
The financial stresses should direct us towards those in our community who were already economically fragile and now are challenged for food, clothing, and shelter. As work interruptions persist, the number of people who will be food challenged with rise dramatically. Consider adopting a neighborhood and making sure the sick, shut-ins, and seniors are not neglected.
My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity
James 2:14-17 CEB
God has seen this before
God has prepared us
God is with us against a perilous pestilence
Let’s let the world know that our faith is alive and that we bring peace in the midst of anxiety.
May God bless you