Laura Witkowski, celebrates the way churches are adapting creatively to the challenges of the pandemic and calls for strengthening connection as the Body of Christ.
Associate Director for Lay Leadership Development, Michigan Conference
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~ I Corinthians 12: 24-27
It was the Wednesday before spring break – the shelter-in-place spring break that seems like many months ago. We were only a few weeks into at-home learning, and at that point, it was five worksheets a day and a smattering of apps, nothing officially online yet. Our family was struggling to find a new rhythm together and find adequate spaces to work. A lot was going on. I had told my colleagues that I had hit a wall, and instead of getting to the other side, it just kept getting thicker. We’ve all felt that over the past several months, right? It’s improved since then. We’ve become gentler with ourselves and each other. (Although, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t lose my patience almost every day while elementary school happens at home.) We are trying. We have adapted. Hopefully, you have, too.
As I’m writing this, my heart is heavy. Mindful that we were supposed to be at General Conference 2020 right now, a GLOBAL gathering. The virus put all of our preparations, plans, and hopes for something new on hold. As difficult as General Conference was going to be, we needed it to happen. A moment of grief washes over me every few days. My GC grief hasn’t hit me yet. I know it’s coming.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next while remaining in this moment. As someone who tends to live in the present (where are my Enneagram 1, 2, and 6 numbers?), thinking about what our lives will look like a month from now is difficult. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t. We know we’re leaving out folks in our online adjustments. Those on the margins are being pushed even further to the margins. We must keep adapting. God didn’t create us to stay the same; we were made for so much more.
I Corinthians 12 has also been on my mind. It’s so relevant to what it means to be a layperson in the church. It starts with Spiritual Gifts, moves to ‘one body, many parts’ and mutual concern, leading its way towards LOVE in chapter 13. On a recent read, I fixated on the “mutual concern for each other” part. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. YOU are the body of Christ and parts of each other.” If we have learned anything in this pandemic, it’s that we are truly globally connected. How can that be denied now?
Friends, how can we as United Methodists not see this connectedness? How can we ignore the suffering, when we may be the next ones to suffer?
Recently, two of my favorite far away humans, Jen Hatmaker and Brené Brown got together for a webcast conversation. One thing they talked about (as many have) was the glaring injustice the virus has brought into the light. COVID-19 is disproportionally affecting communities of color. Suddenly, migrant workers have become essential when they are not typically treated that way. Schools are forced to participate in online learning when many are without access. And adequate personal protective equipment can be hard to come by. Brené brilliantly stated, “We stay sick together, or we get well together. That should be our motto moving forward for everything – COVID-19, poverty, racism, healthcare; the list goes on.” We’ll get better when we do it together. Mutual concern for each other. One body, many parts.
Thankfully, stories are being told. Stories of a church member calling everyone in their congregation weekly until they realized they should be calling each other and not leaving it up to one person. Stories of churches providing free meals and masks. Persons leaving hard copy Zoom instructions on front doors, so those unfamiliar with the technology can follow the instructions step by step and stay connected. Lay Servant Ministry courses are adapting to Zoom and will open up a whole new world for us. Kids Ministries creating sidewalk chalk art at retirement communities and home driveways. So many resources have been created and made available in so many different spaces! The creativity of church leaders seen online is astounding!
“YOU are the body of Christ and parts of each other.” So, take care of each other. Be gentle with each other. Laity, let your pastor take a break. Pastors, let your church leaders use their gifts. You do not have to do it all, and none of it has to be perfect. Pray about what it looks like to give “greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.” And don’t forget to love your neighbor as yourself.