Our lives have been disrupted in most every way, and we know that this will go on until the end of March. It feels as if everything is out of control.
Actually, by following CDC guidelines – staying home, avoiding crowds if we do go out, washing our hands, wearing masks, etc. – we are doing a lot. We are following the first of the three simple rules John Wesley advocated: do no harm. We are doing our part to protect vulnerable people and support the response of our health care system.
Rev. Chris Barbiere and his wife, Dr. Jennifer Barbieri recently wrote an open letter to clergy encouraging us as we have to cancel services and are unable to be with our congregations. Jennifer is a pulmonologist who is on the frontline of care of individuals with the virus, and Chris is a hospital chaplain. Chris and Jennifer have two daughters who Jennifer cannot be around due to possible exposure.
Here is an excerpt from their letter, with things we could do to support the medical community:
- Please pray for hospital employees and their families. Your prayers are appreciated! Consider a 24-hour prayer vigil in which people sign up for specific time slots.
- Write a note or card of encouragement, either for a specific healthcare employee you know or for any healthcare employee. Please check with your local hospital to ensure they can receive and deliver these before doing this.
- As a church, write a message of encouragement for your medical community. Post it on social media and have your members share it.
- Give blood. Social distancing has resulted in a large decrease in blood donations. In NW Georgia, Blood Assurance provides the blood products for all the hospitals in our region. Last week, there were 800 cancelations in Rome, Cartersville, and Dalton. This decline in donations is likely occurring state-wide. If that trend continues, the blood supply could reach critical status quickly. Our local Blood Assurance donor center has extended its hours and is using extra screening protocols for staff and donors to keep everyone safe. Please check with your local donor center and make an appointment (we don’t want long lines!)
- Individually wrapped snacks might be appreciated. Many hospital staff are working long shifts and cannot break for meals. Please check with your local hospital to ensure they can receive and deliver these before doing this.
- Childcare is a concern raised by a number of staff in our Floyd County medical community. This is admittedly a difficult problem to solve but be aware this may be one of the greatest current needs in your community.
Again, the most important thing you can do is to encourage your congregations to practice social distancing and to avoid crowds or gatherings (and practice good handwashing.) Helping slow the spread of COVID-19 is the greatest gift you can offer to the medical community (and your whole community!)
Here is a graph (from CDC posted on Univ. of Michigan site) that shows how much good we can do (the second of Wesley’s three simple rules) if we slow down this virus:
Our Methodist heritage and a theological emphasis places an emphasis on the practical: the role of the church in the daily life and needs of people. We know that prayer feeds our souls and makes a difference; but we have never been a denomination that believes that this is all we are called to do as the Body of Christ. It is our tradition to combine spiritual practices with concrete, practical actions. Even our hymnal has a section on social holiness as well as personal holiness.
The beginnings of Methodism did not separate the physical needs of people from the spiritual, but sought to minister to both. After all, this is what Jesus did when he healed the sick and when he admonished some of the Pharisees and Saducees, who made much of their personal piety, to care for widows and orphans. This is what Torah teachings and what the prophets preached, too.
We can bless others and ourselves with this practical theology. We are called to do this. With God’s help, we can do this.