Schools are closed and many are working from home or unemployed. Many medical workers cannot go home for fear of infecting their families. High school and college seniors face either an underwhelming, virtual graduation ceremony, or no ceremony at all. Anticipated weddings are being webcast due to shelter-in-place orders.
Many wonder what all of this means. What will the new normal look like after coronavirus? How is this impacting the Church of God: our relationships, Sabbath services and even our faith? While facing the unknown, it can seem harder and harder to “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). Social distancing may be saving lives—but emotionally, it can feel isolating and very difficult.
Yet all around the world, humans are making efforts to join together virtually.
People whom God is not yet calling are displaying Christian attributes despite the anxiety gripping their hearts. They reach out to check on people and pool their efforts to help others.
Importantly, the Body of Christ is doing the same. In the Church of God, there have been efforts to produce resources, connect virtually and care for isolated brethren. These are not programs initiated by UCG leadership, but innovative members who are making things happen.
One member from Cincinnati, Ohio, began an online virtual choir. The compilation of contributed videos (including a sign language version) was played as special music for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. The pastor of the Cincinnati congregation, Steve Myers, started a program in which each member or family in the congregation was assigned a group of several people to call and check in on. A member from New England started a ladies’ Facebook group so women in the area can interact during the week and video call on Friday evenings.
Some pastors keep the local Zoom call open for an hour after weekly Sabbath services so brethren can fellowship. A pastor’s wife in Indiana began teaching virtual Sabbath school lessons over Facebook Live video with corresponding crafts and activity pages for parents to print out for their children. Other members have sewn and donated masks, started a Church of God special music group, opted for takeout to support local restaurants and started more interactive online Bible studies. When I see all of these things happening, I wonder: can social distance really keep brethren apart? It reminds me of Romans 8:35-39. Nothing can separate us from the love of God—agape love is that strong. It has been inspiring to see many people channeling that same strength and zeal into serving the brethren and their communities—despite the discomfort and grief we all feel as we navigate our present and wonder about the immediate future. Trials often expose cracks in our character and help us grow—if we allow them to.
This is an unprecedented time to be living, working and loving each other in the midst of a trial that physically separates us—and God is watching our reactions. In times like these, I think of people like Daniel, Esther or Joseph and ask myself, “Am I thriving wherever I find myself, as they did?” As events play out, I hope we continue to be inspired by each other and use this as an opportunity to develop and demonstrate unity.