As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to cause major disruptions to normal life, I have been thinking about the importance of community. Community and connection are vital aspects to our Christ following faith. I cannot recall how often in my ministry career a person who has missed public worship due to illness or recovery for a few weeks, upon return has said, “I really missed being with the church family” or “my week was just ‘off’ because I wasn’t able to be there on Sunday”.
Well, none of us are able to “be there” on Sunday in the ways we have been used to now. So, how do we stay connected to Christ and to the body of Christ (the church) during this time of social distancing? Here are some thoughts that have come to me:
- Take advantage of technology: I have often said technology is neither ‘good’ no ‘bad’ but neutral, it’s how we use it that adds value. Well, I am thankful in these days for the good uses of technology. The ability to “live stream” worship is one of those uses. Facetime with friends and relatives is another. Let’s look for ways to make the technology resources we have more interactive. Comment on the live stream service to let others know you are connected. Respond to the social media posts of friends and neighbors to break up the isolation. Consider not just making a phone call, but doing so via a video connection like Facetime to actually see the person you are calling. Share a link to the live stream option from church with those who may not be aware of it, or who don’t have that option elsewhere.
- No One Gets Left Behind: As the world moves more and more online during this time of crisis, we need to remember those for whom the online world is not native ground. I think of our most elderly, and those who are visually or hearing impaired. While many of our older generations have discovered new technology, several others have not. How can we connect with these folks?
- Consider making phone calls to your “pew buddies”. A church member told me they were doing this and I think it’s an excellent idea. Call the people who typically sit around you in church. We all know you always sit in the same places! Take a moment to think through who those people are and reach out to them – especially if they are elderly.
- There’s always “snail mail”. Last I checked the USPS is still delivering. Send a card. Write a letter. Think about the best medium to reach those who are not “online” and use it.
- Become a tech tutor: Maybe someone you talk with has the means to be more connected through technology, but doesn’t know how. Can you help them learn? Of course, be safe and take precautions, but it might be that they are not that far removed. Coach them through joining the live stream. Help them learn the unused facets of their smart phone. This may be a great inter-generational opportunity. It could all start with the question: “Are you able to connect online with people?”
- Offer to run errands: We are learning that it’s really not safe for our most vulnerable populations to be out in public. Could others of us help them by picking up something from the store, or the pharmacy? Again, we must be diligent not to carry what we may have been exposed to in to others, but it seems this could be a valuable means of keeping community. I know many are already do this.
- Don’t forget those who are taking an economic punch: Small business owners, those who work in the service industry (restaurants and retail), and others are being hit in the pocket book by this crisis. Let’s remember to reach out to them as well. How? Ask how they are doing? Support their business, if possible. Make those in position to help aware of their needs.
- Rinse, Repeat and Do It Again: Just as we are learning to wash our hands more, and take other cleansing precautions on a repeated basis, the connection efforts we make with others need to be repeated. It’s looking like this time of social distancing may extend for days if not weeks. Our efforts to connect cannot be a one-off. We must repeat them. Consider the difference a daily phone call could make in the life of a nursing center resident who has been isolated from family visits, must take all their meals in the room with the shut-down of the dining room, and can only see loved ones through the window. Might you be a ray of sunshine in that person’s life in the name and love of Jesus?
I know these ideas are but a beginning. When God’s people unleash their imagination and the Spirit of God moves through the Body of Christ, new and creative means of connection will be revealed. The spontaneous patio concerts in the big cities seems to be one example of this. What other possibilities come to mind? Please share your ideas.