We find ourselves in unique and anxious times. People are frightened, people are unsure, and people are isolated. Quarantine and social distance have become common vernacular for us as we wait and watch for increased numbers of infection, for the COVID-19 virus to take hold of our own families. Being community has become a challenge.
As a new pastor, finding myself in this COVID-19 world is a challenge that they simply don’t teach us in seminary. Faith leaders and faith communities have been hit hard by the imposition of crowd sized and quarantines. Our churches are closed and our people are scattered to their safest corners. For faith leaders, rebuilding community in a virus-shaped moment is a professional and spiritual requirement. Caring for congregations and neighbors is not an optional task, it is a divinely mandated part of our work in the world. In times like this, we are minister, chaplain, spiritual guide, factual news provider and a non-anxious voice for those around us.
As we go digital to worship, many ministers are reaching out to offer connection. worshippers join us from their living rooms, we are “at home” together. We are reconstructing the home church that was the ancient genesis of our churches today. We are gathering in groups, as did early Christians, in our virtual homes. These gatherings aren’t just an expression of religion, they are also a way to simple be with other people in intentional space. You needn’t even be a Christian to encounter a newfound sense of community connection with us. You needn’t be religious to find a willing listener and social contact in the ministers around you. Most of us are no longer concerned about shoving doctrine into your brain (some of us never were). We are learning one of the most important lessons of pastoral leadership in this crisis. We are learning to be lighthouse keepers keeping beacons of connection glowing in the dark and the fog. We are guardians of community.
Whatever your feelings on doctrine and dogma may be, no matter how you feel about churches and their leaders, please know that our most important proclamation these days is not a call to convert the masses, it is a call to sustain a sense of hope, to awaken the better parts of us. We are here for you working to follow a simple, gospel command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The Rev. Benjamin Fitzgerald-Fye
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