A Faith Based Approach to COVID-19
Courtney Stamey, Senior Pastor, Northside Baptist Church
Our world seems to be spinning faster over the past few days. It can feel like all of our balance is out of whack and we have pandemic vertigo. As a person of faith, and a minister, I think there are several things we can do to ground ourselves in healthy ways. I suggest that people of faith can exercise these five actions, to act as a ballast in this storm.
- Be Generous
- Reach Out
Pray. While times of corporate prayer may be limited, we all have the opportunity to deepen our personal spiritual lives. Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline writes, “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.” Prayer can, and does, transform our world and us. During this season, I would encourage each of us to try out new forms of prayer. Try asking your faith community for a list of prayer concerns, attempt body prayers, breath prayers, mindfulness, meditation, pre-written prayers, and extemporaneous prayers. There are ample resources for people of all faith traditions to grow their prayer lives.
Read. For people of faith, scripture is of utmost importance. If you are Christian, try starting with an Epistle, like Galatians or Colossians. They were written to Christian communities in crises of their own, and can provide hope and a reminder of identity. We also have writers in faith traditions who have navigated trying times of their own. You could try out classics like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, or Dorothy Day’s The Long Lonliness, or read one of the first documents about Christian practice, The Didache (readily available online). Don’t forget to read for fun and stay up to date on COVID-19 recommendations. Read for your spirit, read for fun, and read for helpful information.
Be Generous. Think of this suggestion generally. Be generous in your patience with others. Be generous in your kindness toward the stranger. Be generous in your forgiveness to your neighbor. Be generous with what you have materially and financially. When we are afraid, our tendency is to hoard what we have. Scripture urges us against this reaction (Exodus 16:13-20; Luke 12:16-21). Consider what you might share whether that is goods, finances, a skill set, or something else. Reach out to your community of faith or local non-profit organizations to engage your generosity.
Rest. I often forget that the command to rest is to be taken just as fervently as the other Ten Commandments. What if I were to take the commandment to rest just as seriously as the commandments to not steal or to not murder? My life would be radically changed. This pandemic is giving us the opportunity to rest, but the temptation is present to ignore that command even more. As you think about rest in your own life, consider intentionally resting from social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Limit your time to a certain number of minutes a day or employ a media curfew.
Reach Out. Social distancing does not give us an excuse to disconnect with one another. We need to be intentional about our connections. Call your extroverted friends, write a card to an elderly neighbor, and teach a friend how to use digital communications platforms. The opportunities are endless. If you are a person with mental health concerns, many counselors have online appointments. Seek out a reputable counselor and see if this is a possibility. Follow your instincts that if someone comes to your mind, God might just be encouraging you to reach out. If not, nothing is hurt; you just let someone know they are loved.
In my tradition as a Baptist, we believe in the priesthood of all believers, but now we have the opportunity even more to live that out. Another way to say this is in the words of the Apostle Paul, “We are the body of Christ.” If you are a person of faith, a person who deems themselves spiritual, or a person who chooses to have no faith tradition, use wisdom in these times to find your balance. We need one another.
Foster, R. J. (1978). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper and Row.