Faith and COVID-19
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Remember the pandemic?
Three summers ago, we found ourselves dealing with the unimaginable.
Related: Faith and COVID-19
Churches of Christ lost members, some from COVID-19 itself, others because of denial or disagreement.
Yet many congregations found creative ways to respond to the challenges, taking advantage of innovations such as Zoom and Facebook Live. Backyard Vacation Bible Schools and parking lot worship assemblies gave us hope. So-called “rip and sip” communion cups allowed us to share the Lord’s Supper without spreading germs to our brothers and sisters.
Fast-forward to 2023: We’ve mostly moved past the debates over masks, vaccines and social distancing.
As Hamil R. Harris, the newest member of The Christian Chronicle’s Editorial Board, mentions in a recent column, a few churches, including the one where he preaches, remain online only. But the vast majority are back in the building, often with a few empty pews, but sometimes with new faces in those pews.
The tragedies of COVID-19 were many. To suggest otherwise is to ignore that thousands of brothers and sisters still mourn the loss of loved ones. In the pre-vaccine months, we received word at least weekly, sometimes daily, of beloved church members who had died.
Historians and public health professionals will study the impact of the pandemic and the lessons to be learned as a society for a generation. As a fellowship of believers, we should also consider what we have learned, especially about the meaning of fellowship.
As Harris poignantly points out, fellowship had a new face because of COVID-19.
For one thing, we learned how much we need each other — fellowship is more than meeting and greeting, more than an occasional potluck or class party. Those outdoor functions during COVID-19 not only gave us a chance to see one another, albeit from a safe distance, but they also made us more visible, and we hope more approachable, to those who live in the neighborhoods around our buildings.
Socially distanced graduation celebrations required a little creativity, but oh the joy of cruising through the church parking lot and dropping off gifts for the high school graduates we hadn’t seen in months. Or waving at expectant moms or brides at a drive-by baby or wedding shower.
Our neighbors noticed that, too.
By worshiping with our own congregations online, or watching other congregations nearby or around the nation, we may have learned some new songs, come to appreciate a different custom, been challenged to think of a Scripture or doctrine in a new way — at least new to us.
As we eagerly embrace normal again, whether a new normal or an old normal, let’s not lose that excitement, that joy of fellowship found in new ways, new places and new activities.
The writer of Ecclesiastes understood that joy when he wrote:
“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil — this is the gift of God.”
We learned during COVID-19 how much we need each other, how much we miss each other, how much we longed to sing together, pray together, learn together and share fellowship with one another.
Let’s never forget that longing. And let’s never forget that being creative in sharing and spreading the joy of togetherness is the gift of God. — Cheryl Mann Bacon, for the Editorial Board
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