Being the Church in the Time of COVID-19

By: Kari Bergrud

This week has been a bit strange and unsettling!

At times it’s felt anxiety-inducing and apocalyptic. Events being cancelled and people requiring self-quarantines. Many are exhibiting unexpected hoarding behaviours out of a drive to survive the next weeks. In many other ways though, it’s also brought hope and incredible acts of innovative community and support, like people in Vancouver’s West End cheering health workers from their balconies.

So what do we do as the Church within this mixture of hope, uncertainty, kindness, and fear?

We can act as the Church, in many creative and nuanced ways, responding uniquely to our strange times. For the first time that I can remember, most congregations across Metro Vancouver cancelled their services on Sunday for the sake of public health. So the Church was required to move beyond its walls and come to life in the neighbourhoods around us. Already we are seeing just how expansive and creative God’s love is during this time.

This weekend I saw the Church come alive in so many ways. I saw it in a Facebook group, called “COVID-19 Coming Together (Vancouver)”, where over 11,000 people across Metro Vancouver are posting ways that they can help others, such as picking necessities up for those who are homebound. And welcoming others to post what they’re in need of or requiring assistance with.

I saw it in casual gatherings in parks, allowing safe distance from each other while remaining in each other’s presence.

And I saw it in the texts I received from friends, just checking in on UGM to make sure that the most vulnerable people in our community were taken care of.

In light of this, we thought that we would offer you some ideas of how to be the Church within your own community while we face these difficulties together:

  1. Offer to help your Neighbour
    Write a letter to 5+ neighbours letting them know that you are wiling to help grocery shop or walk their dog if they are quarantined.
  2. Use technology for connection, not disconnection
    Schedule an intentional phone call or Facetime with someone that is quarantined or feeling isolated by canceled social events. Plan to play games, or eat meals together through Facetime or Zoom. Pro Tip: Not sure what to talk about? Ask what the first album they every owned was. Or if they have ever had a pet.
  3. Support vulnerable populations
    Contact a local charity, like UGM, to see if they are short on anything and make a donation. Or check in with ministry leads at your church. Are there families or individuals that need food hampers? Maybe you can put one together and drop it off to the family.
  4. Let people know what you need
    You might be feeling anxious or are isolated by these circumstances. By letting people know that they can help you, you are creating a more open and honest community that helps to bring church outside of the walls of the building.
  5. And keep washing your hands.
    If not for yourself, for the sake of others in the community with depleted immune systems or at risk of getting sick.

One of my colleagues once said that “everyone can do more than nothing”. I love this because in the shadow of a pandemic we can feel so small, like everything is out of our control. But if we each do more than nothing, that burden lightens. With each “more than nothing” act, sparks of light are made, fading that shadow, and bringing the light of Christ into our communities.

So my dear friends, as we settle into this unknown time, look for the Church and be the Church, beyond the walls that we are familiar with. And make some sparks!