Be the Church in the Age of Corona

The biggest threat of the new coronavirus outbreak has shifted from China to Europe, where large populations of people may have been exposed, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

I live in Europe. Two-thirds of my heart lives in Europe (currently, 4 Sunbergs are in Europe and 2 are in the US). People that I love and minister beside live in Europe. I’m writing this from the comfort of my home in the center of Europe. The government in my European country of residence just declared a state of emergency. I hear the numbers of Covid-19 cases grow each day. Schools are closing. Some governments have shut their borders. Other governments are setting numerical and geographical limitations on public gatherings. Tomorrow, my country of birth will be closed to me. My media stream inhales and exhales Covid-19 news. If the statistics and the stories tell the truth, Europe is accelerating toward the apex of what the World Health Organization yesterday officially labeled a Global Pandemic.

As Jay and I navigate this reality for our own nuclear family, and for the countries of Central Europe for which we have denominational responsibility, we are asking this question: What does it mean to be the church in the age of corona?

REJECT FEAR NARRATIVES

God does not give us a spirit of fear, rather we depend upon God and God’s ability to see us through all situations. With the Lord’s help, we will navigate the situation before us both rationally and compassionately.

Let’s remember that for most people, the corona virus is not life-threatening, however, it is highly contagious. Follow logical and practical guidelines, such as hand-washing, staying home when sick, and obeying national initiatives. Some nations are limiting gatherings, including communal meetings in houses of worship. As law-abiding citizens, and as people who care for the well-being of our neighbors, let’s observe this precaution if local authorities are asking us to do so.

As the virus moves and new places and people are affected, rumors and panic increase exponentially. Let us be people of calm faith and people of prayer. This should be a time when the church is an expression of strength, hope, and help in the midst of trouble. Reject the temptation to spread undocumented stories, especially on-line, that can cause panic to grow in people.

WATCH WHAT WE SAY

Words have incredible power, and even more so now when tensions are heightened and more people spend increased time listening to the news and checking websites as they stay home. The words we choose to say have significant impact on our neighbors, especially those who are more vulnerable. We need to re-hear and re-mind ourselves and one another that Jesus said, “The second [commandment] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

There may be tendencies to subtly lay blame or criticism upon countries or continents for slow or insufficient response. There are also more overt statements, such as calling the Covid-19 the ‘chineese coronavirus’ as some newscasters have done. This places false blame on an entire group of people.

Christ in us should lead us to kindly but definitively confront those kinds of ignorant yet harmful statements. Jokes, satirical videos, and drawings, even seemingly ‘harmless ones,’ are not harmless — they act like a virus that subtly and not so subtly erodes the testimony of Christ’s love in and through us.

CARE FOR THE VULNERABLE

Throughout the New Testament, the Church is unequivocally mandated to care for the vulnerable in society. From Genesis to Revelation, our sacred scriptures are layered with stories of hospitality, the ethic of hospitality, the ultimate example of hospitality in Jesus, and the hope of everlasting hospitality found in Christ. The full message of scripture operates in direct opposition to the narrative of scarcity that is frequently communicated.

The narrative of scarcity sounds like this, “We don’t have enough resources to help our own people.” Or, “Those foreigners are stealing resources that belong to us.” Or, “We were foreigners or displaced or homeless or vulnerable once, but we were not like these.” Or, “I take care of my family first.”

These types of statements are symptoms of a people who have forgotten their identity as the Christ-bearers. Remember, it was the radical hospitality and inclusivity of the early church that resulted in the inexplicable growth of a love for Christ within communities. Christians have an explicitly clear call to offer hospitality — it is our DNA.

SHARE OUR RESOURCES

One of the best ways to combat the fear we may be feeling is to become a productive part of the solution. Stop panic buying groceries, medicines, and medical supplies that you do not need but that result in shortages for others who do need them. Do buy groceries and supplies that you can donate to your local food pantry or church. Keep in mind that there are many families who live from one paycheck to the next. They may not have the money to purchase enough groceries today to get them and their family through a 14-day quarantine. There are certainly hourly-wage people in your community who cannot afford to miss 2 weeks of work. Learn who and where the vulnerable people are in your community and where the resource agencies are located. If God has blessed you with more than you genuinely need, now is the time to share.

For Nazarenes reading this, one of your many options could be to donate towards Central Europe Field’s Disaster Relief Fund. Many of the countries on our field have less than robust economic structures. So too, their medical infrastructures may be inadequate to meet the overwhelming needs in the weeks to come. We are hearing this already, fielding questions and requests. Many people live on the edge of sustainability during normal times — These are not normal times. With your donations, we hope to enable local churches through NCM, to be a resource for individuals struggling because of the corona virus. We also encourage Nazarenes to use the Global NCM link to donate beyond Central Europe

For Nazarenes reading this, one of your many options could be to donate towards Central Europe Field’s Disaster Relief Fund. Many of the countries on our field have less than robust economic structures. So too, their medical infrastructures may be inadequate to meet the overwhelming needs in the weeks to come. We are hearing this already, fielding questions and requests. Many people live on the edge of sustainability during normal times — These are not normal times. With your donations, we hope to enable local churches through NCM, to be a resource for individuals struggling because of the corona virus. We also encourage Nazarenes to use the Global NCM link to donate beyond Central Europe

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

If you are a healthy individual, there is a high probability that you may catch Covid-19 and never know it. Remember that if you are infected, you have the potential to pass that virus on to somebody with a compromised immune system and for whom corona is life-threatening or life-taking. Make responsible choices about travel, proximity to other people, and going to work, school, social gatherings based upon the well-being of others.

These are uncertain and unchartered waters for our world, but as we make this journey, let us discover and faithfully live out what it means to be the church. Find creative and compassionate ways of ministering, encouraging, protecting, and respecting the people in our communities. Love people. Love Jesus. Pray for our world. Be thankful. Share. By faith, trust God in the age of Corona.

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