Reflections on a Pandemic by Denise Clapsaddle, Designated Pastor
This isn't the first global pandemic in my lifetime, but it is the first highly contagious pandemic that has disrupted our daily lives. Every day, it seems, brings fresh changes and concerns. Tom Hanks is infected! The wife of the Prime Minister in Canada has it! The President and Vice President may be exposed! These are the buzzy headlines that grab attention. Others say it is no big deal, and that everyone is overreacting. So, why is almost everything closing and why are the store shelves emptying? And where is God in the midst of all this? Pandemics were different in the time of Jesus. Nobody could hop on a plane and be on the other side of the world. On the other hand, there was no modern medicine, so those who got very sick had only prayer and the hope of a miracle to combat infectious diseases. They did understand that isolating a sick person might help stop the spread of the disease, but the importance of hand washing and keeping surfaces clean didn't become fully clear until the last couple of centuries or so. So, why the current drastic measures? After all, relatively few people have tested positive in the United States. Italy was where we are three weeks ago. Now their health system is totally overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses are barely able to sleep. The massive cancellations in the US are being done to "flatten the curve" of the infections--that is, to slow the spread of the disease so that our health care providers can keep up.
So where is God in all of this? The mission of the Christian church is to be the body of Christ for a suffering world. We seek to do the things that Jesus did during his earthly ministry--to heal the sick, feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, pray for sinners and preach the gospel of God's love and compassion for all. The concrete ways we are going to do this at Plymouth will change and evolve in response to the Pandemic but the mission will remain the same. We had hoped to begin offering healing prayers after church once a month. Ironically, these prayers put participants at risk for contagion, as they involve anointing with oil and close proximity. We hope to be able to start that soon but now is not the right time. I am happy to pray such prayers over the phone or by video chat with anyone who requests. The Food Pantry is able to deliver for those qualified to receive food and unable to make it to the pantry in person. Also, many stores have delivery services. If you can't get out for any reason and need help getting food or other supplies delivered a church staff person or volunteer will either deliver food to you, help you learn how to get deliveries from a service or both. During this season we have been hearing lessons from the gospel of Mark about Jesus healing people. In nearly every case, the person in need asks Jesus for help and receives it. I know some people have trouble asking for help but this is an un-Biblical attitude. It is not only okay to ask the Church for help, it is good. Christian love involves giving and receiving help. Both aspects are necessary. Both are blessed. If we can't help we will not be upset that you have asked. We will do our best to accommodate your requests and/or help you find someone who is able to help. In Christ, Pastor Denise