For years on Friday mornings, I have attended an interdenominational Bible study with some fellows I have gotten to know well. Together we have shared stories, celebrated births and mourned deaths of family members and close friends. Of course, we now participate through Zoom and I’m glad that most of us are able to join each week. Lately we’ve been discussing the ways we are affected by the coronavirus. Everyone has admitted to being stressed in one way or another, whether it due to employment uncertainty, family strife from too many hours spent together, or just a disoriented feeling from all the change. Both of the parents of one of the men have been infected with the virus – one has fully recovered, and the other is thankfully in recovery. His parents live at the same assisted living facility, but because one has dementia, they must live in different sections, sadly apart from each other.
At a recent meeting, one of my friends shared a simple exercise someone at his church mentioned. Maybe you have heard of it – three questions to ask yourself about how the coronavirus has affected you. It had me wondering afterward about how the three questions might apply to the United Methodist Church right now.
What has the coronavirus taken away? The thing that comes to mind is physical touch. It’s true that this is a basic human need. There is a reason that we are drawn to others physically. We greet people with handshakes and shoulder clasps. We comfort each other with hugs. We bless people by laying hands on them. And if anyone has figured out a good way to pass the peace while maintaining social distance, I’d like to hear it! Even when we return to church, which I am hoping will be very soon, there is no doubt that we will have to resist the urge to touch those whom we haven’t seen in person for awhile. I’m looking forward to the day when we don’t have to be so careful.
What has the coronavirus not taken away? What has been a little surprising is that, despite being physically distant, our connection is still there. You may have noticed more people reaching out to one another, or those with whom you have regular contact reaching out more frequently. I know I have been trying to do so in different ways. A phone call to say “Just checking on you.” An unexpected email, or text. And who had heard of Zoom birthday parties before this? At the Foundation, we are doing our best to stay in contact with our clients even when we are working a split-shift, or like many of you, adapting to enable us to work from home.
What has the coronavirus given you? In one word: perspective. Don’t you have a little more clarity about what is really important? The health of your family and those close to you. Appreciation for the means to provide for your family, or to share those means with others. If your employment has been disrupted, maybe you are thankful for the savings to make it through, or perhaps you have gratitude that there is someone to help you along. I know many of our congregations are finding ways to support others. If you are suffering, I hope it won’t be for long. And if you have had your faith tested, I pray it is ultimately strengthened.
We began this year on the precipice of a significant change in the United Methodist Church. Maybe the change has simply been delayed. But if we pause to notice, it is interesting how the sincere differences we have with one another seem to have at least temporarily been pushed aside. As we continue to endure the health and economic impacts of the virus, we long for the day where we may embrace, celebrating our connection together, with new perspectives on how the Church may thrive again.
One of the things my Bible study group misses the most is stopping by Chick-fil-A afterward. We know everyone’s favorite order by heart. Double orders, strange sauce combinations. How one friend always folds the wrapper before he throws it away. We’re a different bunch. Yes, I know Chick-fil-A is still open, but I don’t have the patience to wait in the drive-thru. And there is just something about a group sharing a meal together as one, isn’t there?
Author: Bo Bowden