What a week it was! Last Tuesday Governor Kim Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency. This requires the closing of restaurants to the general public, except for carry-out, drive-through, and delivery. Health clubs, gyms, theaters, and gatherings of ten or more people, including worship services, are prohibited until the public health disaster is over.
Then, a few days later, we learned that our 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis will be postponed to a later date because of the health risks involved in holding a major event with thousands of people in attendance.
This is an especially tough time because many people in Iowa still remember the 1980’s Farm Crisis, when farmers in the United States, especially in Iowa, were confronted by an economic crisis more severe than any since the Great Depression. Many who relied on agriculture for their livelihood faced financial ruin. The same possibility may become a reality today if the COVID-19 Pandemic continues for months. Some smaller businesses may never recover, and social service agencies may not be able to recoup financial losses because of declining contributions. Even churches will be affected if congregation members are not able to keep current with their financial contributions.
Last Friday, there were 281,000 jobless claims in the United States, according to analysts at investment bank Goldman Sachs. They are also predicting that by this Thursday those weekly claims may balloon up to 2.25 million. It is critical to support our business owners, employers, employees, and all those who are suffering economically.
These are, indeed, unprecedented days, as we live into a coronavirus world. Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:6-7) seem appropriate as we seek to remain calm and centered in Christ. “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”
A new word has entered our vocabulary over the past several months: “social distancing.” Because of the overly infectious nature of the coronavirus, we have been encouraged to keep at least six feet away from one another. This does not eliminate the possibility of infection, but it does reduce or slow down the number of infections.
Some people believe that social distancing has a negative connotation, as if we are not to be in any kind of connection with our friends and neighbors. On the contrary, it is absolutely critical that we stay in relationship with each other at this time. Various alternative phrases have been offered such as:
- “Standing Together by Standing Apart”
- “Social Distancing without Social Isolation”
- “Spiritual Connection; Physical Distance”
- “Socially Separate; Faithfully Engaged”
All of these options point to the essence of our human challenge at this moment in time. When you and I are forced to stay home and slow down, we realize that we have been given a precious gift: the opportunity to spend time with our family, reconnect with people from our past that we haven’t been in touch with for a while, and form new connections, all the time recognizing how much we really need each other in order to get through this.
In the past week, Gary and I have had multiple conversations with our three children and two grandchildren who are sequestered away in Seattle, New York City, and the Detroit metro area. Our grandchildren are not in school at the moment and their parents both work from home, so it has been a challenge. Last night our family members, who are living in Des Moines, Seattle, New York City, and Metro Detroit, caught up with each other for a half hour on Google Hangout.
Gary and I also reconnected with a mother and teenage daughter from Oregon whom we met while walking the El Camino trail in Spain last summer. We became good friends, but as often happens, we came home and returned to the same busy schedules we had before we left. A few days ago, we were surprised by a call from Laura and Mia, and we had a wonderful conversation, catching up with each other’s lives. The next day, three friends from Michigan with whom I met regularly for a number of years, reconnected with me, and we plan to stay in touch.
In my reading and conversations with others, there are simple things that we can and must all do to remain healthy and safe. At the same time, we can also make a difference in the lives of others who do not have enough material, financial, or human resources to live comfortably right now. Here are a few suggestions:
- Every day, make a phone call, send an email, or write a card to a shut-in or someone who feels isolated.
- Make a grocery run for someone who can’t get out.
- Limit watching the news. It doesn’t need to be on all day.
- Get outside in the fresh air and take a walk.
- Take the initiative to reconnect with an old friend.
- Start that book you’ve been intending to read. You can even check out my new book, Wandering into Grace; A Journal of Discovery and Hope.
- Offer childcare to neighbors who work and cannot stay home with their young children.
- Don’t hoard toilet paper or Chlorox wipes.
- Thank people who are serving you in the grocery store, gas stations, or restaurant take-out counters.
- Don’t forget to stay current in your giving to your local church.
- Pray for all those who have been infected as well as for our health care professionals, who are working tirelessly to bring hope and healing.
- Email your stories of how you and/or your church are making a difference at this time to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll include a few stories every Wednesday in my Caring Connections videos.
I would love to hear how you are coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic in your daily life and how you are reaching out to others in creative ways. Prayer for a Pandemic, written by by Cameron Bellm, a young mother from Seattle, helps us gain perspective.
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.