This Week at Trinity Beamsville
This week, I feel like I have been inundated with information about Covid-19. Dare I say, pun intended, it has gone “viral”. As I have sorted through the information, some helpful and some less so, one piece rises to the top. It is written by theologian and beloved author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S Lewis. He captures a sense of serenity in the midst of crisis, writing at the height of the Cold War and its own pervasive fears:
“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts–not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
His words find new meaning as we find ourselves wondering how to respond in a pandemic. The escalating awareness has led to sensible approaches such as cancelling of schools and events, and less sensible approaches such as hysteria and bizarre hoarding of toilet paper.
What frightens me as much as hysteria, is the denial of the dangers of Covid-19. I saw a video early in the week of Cincinnati based mega-church pastor Brian Tome addressing his congregation and encouraging them to not live “in a state of fear”. His words that would follow brought me chills like nails on a chalkboard. “I’m not saying people aren’t dying, but they tend to be very old people and people who have significant medical problems. I just want to say: you’re going to be OK.”
In part he is correct, “most” will be unaffected, “most” will be inconvenienced at worst. I am not in the practice of tearing down decisions made by fellow faith leaders, but I will say that I found myself wondering about how his message was heard by the most vulnerable people in his congregation. In saying, “don’t worry, it won’t affect most of us”, he sends a message that the few who may be affected do not matter, or matter less. He is “othering” and I would suggest, perpetuating ageism, ableism and narcissism. A few days later, it is no surprise that the video has been deleted.
In stark contrast, the kind of community Jesus intended to build is one of gracious leadership, which bridges the divide between “those people” and “us people”. A community that includes everyone. My understanding has always been that God does not value some lives over others. Jesus demonstrates again and again that the vulnerable are to be upheld with the utmost dignity. (Consider his controversial interaction with the lepers). Following his footsteps, I think the way we approach this Covid-19 is to exercise compassion, prevention and prayer. We love our neighbours in concrete ways by taking precautions, washing our hands as always, and staying informed. The whole nature of infectious disease control and prevention is to not only act in the best interest of “ourselves” and “our own”, but to act with the whole community in mind and heart. We are called to be the body of Christ and be gracious to one another, to love one another as ourselves.
I hope that we can live in the healthy and vast space between denial and hysteria. A wise congregant remarked on Sunday following my prayer for God to “turn our fears into love”, by suggesting our fear is not a bad thing if it leads us in a direction to act in love. If you share in fear and concern, let it drive us to be diligent, let it fuel our prayers and lead us to compassion. If you are feeling particularly fearful or have need of pastoral support of any kind, please never hesitate to reach out to Rev. Heather or myself. You are a valued and beloved part of our community, and you not alone, not ever.