The Rev. Paul Perez says, “The good news is, church is never canceled.” He lists opportunities for caring and connecting with the vulnerable, including oneself.
Associate Director for Mission & Ministry, Michigan Conference
It is amazing how quickly life has changed over the past week.
COVID-19, a microscopic virus, has brought March Madness, a presidential election, the stock market, schools, and, even, Sunday worship to a halt.
It is a reminder of how fragile we, human beings, and our institutions truly are. It is also a reminder of how interconnected we are across the globe.
The latter has led to the necessary practices of “social distancing,” of limiting public gatherings, of forgoing physical contact and closeness.
Social distancing is tough for the church. Especially for those peculiar people called United Methodists, for whom there is no religion except, “social religion.” We gather together to sing, pray, and listen to the Word proclaimed. We shake each other’s hands and offer hugs. We love to meet in small groups for study and support. We are dedicated to serving our neighbors, to giving things away, to providing compassionate care. And food, we love sharing a meal with each other whether at the Lord’s table or the potluck table.
In an effort to do no harm, we are left wondering if we can still do any good, how we will stay in love with God?
“In an effort to do no harm, we are left wondering if we can still do any good, how we will stay in love with God?”
The good news is church is never canceled. There are always opportunities to present to each other, to care, to connect, to be community, to be vulnerable, and be with those who are vulnerable.
Here are some vulnerable communities to keep on your mind and heart as you and your congregation respond to COVID-19.
- Older people who are especially vulnerable to the virus. (“In a time of crisis, reassurance without fear,” UM News)
- People with pre-existing respiratory illnesses who live with disability, chronic illnesses, are immunodepressed, homebound, or neurodivergent.
- Children and families who rely on free and reduced meals at school. (“How to find free lunch for Michigan kids with schools shut down,” MLive)
- People whose income has or will quickly decrease due to shut down. (“Avoiding Coronavirus May Be a Luxury Some Workers Can’t Afford,” The New York Times)
- People who are experiencing homelessness and have no option to “stay home.”
- Members of Asian communities who have experienced discrimination and xenophobia due to the virus initially being connected to China. (“When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus,” NPR- Code Switch)
I lift these communities, not to give you and your congregation more work to do, or problems to solve, or crises to manage. But as an invitation to vulnerability, to mutual care, connection, and community.
“I lift these communities not to give … crises to manage, but as an invitation to vulnerability, to mutual care, connection, and community.”
I close, not with a long list of things we could or should do, but with two simple suggestions:
Have a personal conversation with a member of a vulnerable community or an organization that is in direct ministry or service with the community. Be present; ask how you may offer care and be in connection and community with them?
Take a silent moment. Be vulnerable to yourself. What do you need in this moment? Be courageous, tell someone you trust what you need, how they can offer care, and be in connection and community with you.
~ Find a Health Crisis Toolbox here, that includes ways to continue in community outreach without doing harm.