Content Warning: Discussion of COVID-19/Coronavirus. Jump to the bottom for a prayer and some support & community building resources.
During these times of uncertainty, many of you may feel isolated. Many of you are probably not working or have been laid off, aren’t going to school or just aren’t going out, period, and seem to have a lot of spare time on your hands. It may feel like life is on pause at the moment, or that you are even more busy in strange, unexpected ways. Many of you are probably sad that you can’t see loved ones, or are reaching the end of your rope with the ones sharing your house.
I want to let you know, you’re not in this alone.
If you know me, there are two things you’ll probably have learned by now. Number 1, I like to keep busy, and number 2, I’m an extrovert. I need to be moving and I need people. I’m not a big fan of the indoors or staying home, which makes our current situation extremely challenging, but I do know this is for all of our health and safety.
So I’ve been reading the Bible, watching sermons on Youtube, writing and reflecting, watching faith based movies, participating in prayer groups–I even started a small life group with few friends. As I’m sure I’m not the only person to tell you, this can be a great opportunity to draw closer to God by using this time to be still and work on spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, and fasting. However, it’s at least my experience that community is a fundamental part of our walk with Christ, so what do we do when a virus pulls the rug out from under our feet?
To be honest, I have been longing for community–even before I found myself in self-isolation.
When I say community, what I normally think about is people my own age that are like-minded Christians, getting together in a large group setting, like maybe a young adults group. Yet, as some of you may know, my church St. Andrew’s Presbrtyertian Church Scarbrough doesn’t have a huge young adults demographic, which is hard for the few young adults that do go to the church. After talking to some spiritual leaders in my life about how God placed me in this church for a reason, I began to see the definition of community differently. I was “in community” all my Christian walk, but I really was not taking notice of it.
Pastors Duncan Cameron and Monica McClure at my church put it into a good perspective:
“What is the Church? Is it merely a building where people gather once or twice a week? Or is it something else? Why do we say the Church is open, if the building is closed?
Rather than asking “what is the Church,” perhaps a more appropriate question to ask is “who is the Church?” For the Church has never actually been a building…rather the Church is a living body…a group of people who put their trust and hope in Jesus and who follow him…a group of people whose mission it is to tell the whole world about Jesus and what he has done for each of us at the cross.”
Our church is a community of fellow believers gathering for fellowship. In these times we have to be the body of Christ and be there for one another. After all, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Community can be done in any size, whether it be one on one, a small group or large group setting. Community looks differently for different people; I’m pretty sure that community might look different for an introvert versus an extrovert.
During this time of hardship, many of us have been finding creative ways to create community. Community is beginning to look a lot different for us than it did 3 weeks ago. It doesn’t mean meeting in a physical building any more. The way we see community is beginning to change.
God never intended us to live life alone. In Acts 2:42 says the believers were “devoted to fellowship,” and in verse 46, it starts to tell us a little bit about what this looked like: “they worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” God never intended us to live life alone, but what should we do if we can’t worship in the Temple or eat together?
I sent out pretty much that question to our readers on Instagram stories, and personally to some of my Christians friends. I heard a lot about WhatsApp Groups with Friends and Video Chats, spending time with family and Facetime, various types of social media, and of course the ever present Zoom. I’ve also heard just how hard it is to figure out just how to make these options work.
Personally, it didn’t hit until recently that this might be longer than it seems. I hope it honestly isn’t, but none of this is in my hands. As I am socially distancing at the moment. The person I miss the most is Kamal, the love of my life. It’s hard, because as of yesterday it’s been the longest time we have been apart from each other. I know it’s been hard for her as well. I wish I could just give her a big hug.
Community is never easy. For as many passages like Acts 2:42 where we see the early church worshipping together, we have many more where we feel the pangs of distance. There’s a reason the New Testament is composed entirely of letters. We see in the examples of Paul, Peter, John, Luke, and many more that the church is either moving too quickly or spreading too wide for it ever to fit in one upper room again.
Conversely, we see people like Paul and John writing from places of isolation–Paul was, like, perpetually in prison. While they longed to see their beloved brothers and sisters again (see the beginning or end of basically any of Paul’s letters for examples of this), they could see the opportunities presented in their trials. In Philippians 1 he writes,
“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”
Maybe for some of us–particularly those of us who are privileged enough to be able to take these kinds of connections for granted–God is reminding us to take a moment to breathe and spend time with those who are nearest and not always dearest. I hate to admit this, but I sometimes neglect spending time with my family because, as many of you know, my family is not Christian and they don’t see with the same lens I see with.
For others, this may be an opportunity to rethink the ways that we communicate online, and how we can use our digital presence to spread love even when we are finally able to meet in public again. Conversely, for some, this might be a chance to reflect on the structures that we lean on or lean into that are not as sturdy as we thought, or are allowing us to be complacent about those around us who are always isolated, marginalized, or alone. Maybe this will be a time where we learn to band together in ways we never had.
Or maybe…I don’t know? What have you been learning? What do you want to learn? Moreover, who do you want to teach by your example?
We’re approaching Easter, and though we won’t be in our church buildings to celebrate it, we will be in our church. Let us remember that ours is a God of resurrection. If he could bring life out of death and salvation out of the cross, he can certainly bring community out of isolation, and growth out of this virus.
I just want to share a quick prayer before signing off on this post.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I want to take this time to thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do. I ask that you help us during this challenging time. I ask that you help us see the light in the darkness and joy in the sorrow, but also help us find community in the way we need it the most Lord. I ask that you help the people that are finding it hard during this time including myself. Let this be an opportunity to draw closer to you.
I pray for the healthcare professionals that are working day in and day out, that you be with them, that they find comfort in you, and that they’ll get rest. I pray for the people that have been tested positive for COVID-19, for your healing, and that your will will be done, and that the Holy Spirit guides each one of these individuals. May this be a time that they may draw closer to you.
In the name of your son, our healer and sustainer, Jesus Christ, I pray,
Below are some things that have been helpful to me in my own isolation, including Bible passages, sermons (both live and recorded), and some other resources.
One main one is our new FlipGrid community board where you have the opportunity to hear from others in our community, and have your voice heard. FlipGrid is a video response program, available as both a browser-based application and an app for Apple and Android products, where users can create and respond to short videos talking about, well, whatever they want. We wanted to be able to see your wonderful faces and provide a way to interact, even though we’re so far apart. There are already a couple discussion topics up there, so why not give it a try!
Additionally, here are some Bible passages that have been helpful to me throughout this time:
1 John 1:7
Psalms 46:1-2 NIV
If you’re looking to follow a more structured plan, Melville Presbyterian Church is currently running a Bible Reading Challenge through the book of Mark. You can sign up for emails about that by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re looking for some Sunday worship, live streamed directly to you, why not check out Sanctus Church, Transformation Church, or find a complete list of all Presbyterian Church in Canada live streams here.
If you’re looking for some recorded sermons, why not check out my home church, St. Andrew’s Scarborough.
If you’re looking for someone to pray with, myself and some of my good friends will be holding prayer sessions every Tuesday and Thursday via Google Hangouts from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (join here).
Finally, if you’d like to talk or in need of prayer please feel free to email me at email@example.com, call me at (416)-907-475, or send us a message on Instagram. We’re here to take on these unprecedented times together as a community.