What are we willing to do to keep other people safe? This thought has been going through my mind this week. If we see someone in danger, are we willing to take heroic actions to protect them? If someone is drowning, are we the one who would jump into the water to pull them out? If a truck is roaring toward an elderly person, would we jump into action to push them out of the path of the truck? As Christians, and as the United Methodist Church, what are we willing to do as we face the Covid-19 pandemic? Wash our hands with soap and water? Do social distancing? Not worship in person?
This has been a week where it feels like we have gotten new information every hour. We have been trying to balance not being alarmists, while wanting to respond to Covid-19 in responsible ways. I have personally been trying to inform myself more about Covid-19. I feel like I have been slow coming to speed. It really wasn’t until Sunday morning I fully understood the need for us to slow down the spread of Covid-19. One of our biggest dangers is overwhelming our healthcare systems. This is what has happened in Italy. The spread of Covid-19 can happen faster than what we see with the flu. Without slowing down the virus, we could have a crisis in our country of not having enough hospital rooms, or enough ventilators.
I know there are people who believe this whole virus issue is completely being blown out of proportion. On Sunday afternoon I saw a FaceBook friend post: “In the US you have a 4 millionth percent chance of catching the Corona Virus. That is one in every 208,000 could catch the virus and 96.3% survive. So, you have a greater chance of winning the Power-Ball Lotto than dying of the virus. You have a greater chance of getting struck by lightning 68 times than even catching the virus. Globally it is a 7 billionth percent chance you will die of the virus.” Friends, I’m not trying to scare you, but what I’m reading paints a much different picture than my friend’s conclusions. The concern isn’t primarily how many cases there have been, but how quickly new cases can emerge. Covid-19 is very contagious. This is why we are seeing drastic steps being taken at the city, state, and national levels. It’s too late to keep the virus out of our country, so the next step is to do everything we can to slow down the spread of the virus.
Are there any steps being recommended for our churches in the Desert Southwest Conference? In a letter e-mailed out yesterday to appointed clergy, and again today to our entire conference, Bishop Bob says: “In consultation with the Extended Cabinet, I strongly recommend Desert Southwest churches suspend all in-person gatherings through April 6, 2020.” To read the entire letter, click here. Today’s e-mail includes information about ZOOM webinars happening this week (Wednesday-Friday), and ZOOM Community Conversations happening next week. This is a time for us to learn, and be creative, together!
In the midst of learning to do things like worship in creative ways, we are also finding Covid-19 is creating new opportunities for other ministries. We need to be especially sensitive to the struggles of our neighbors. Does someone need help with grocery shopping? With schools being closed, are there additional hungry children to feed? Do parents need help with childcare while they work? I’m even wondering if we could do a toilet paper ministry. Maybe we could call it something like: “We have your backs (sides)”. Yeah, we might want to think this one through some more.
Let’s not be afraid as we face the challenges confronting us. We have work to do, and people to love in the name of Christ!
Your brother on the journey, Mark