This is a time for faith to truly start at home. You are about to become keenly aware of how well scripture is taught at home; the health of the family and individual life of prayer; the response of children to the suffering of others; and the capacity of individual and family units to be the Church to the vulnerable in ways that are forcibly tangible. You are about to see come alive what you’ve instilled in your children, good and bad.
I’m so proud of churches who stepped out and made streaming available on Sundays, and who are posting their phone numbers for people to call and request help with running errands for the vulnerable and the immunocompromised. Well done!
Yet, when the pandemic abates – and it will – where will all of that creativity and planning go? Will it be like all the effort and planning you put into Easter Sunday and the lack-luster, boring, poorly attended service the Sunday after Easter Sunday? What will happen when it is no longer about online giving and virtual prayer requests?
What will your response be when it isn’t a person vulnerable to this virus, but a refugee? An underserved neighborhood? The homeless population in your town or city? Someone who feels hurt or left out by the Church in your community? A gay student in your youth group who is bullied at school?When over 90% of our membership is labeled White/Non-Hispanic as data points are populated, will we meet quickly, band together, and come up with creative and innovative ideas to work toward inter-cultural development?
How quickly will we swoop in to buy food and toilet paper and hygiene items for the poor and hungry and not to add to our own pile of rations?
What will happen in the coming days, when providing food and supplies for students and families forces you to go beyond sending your oldest cans of kidney beans and chickpeas and that dusty bottle of peroxide in your child’s backpack for the drive at school?
Every Sunday, I have the humble privilege of delivering a pastoral prayer. Every Sunday, I include:
“Challenge us to build a longer table at which to share our many blessings, and not a higher wall or a bigger barn in which to hoard them … and where they will spoil.”
Like it or not, local churches have just proven to cities, counties, and states that we have the ability to suspend rules and move quickly to address needs. If we only do it when it helps our own members worship from home (even though that is important) we are sending the wrong message.
When this is over, and it isn’t the novel coronavirus, and people know publicly that we can leverage community organizing, social media, and ecumenical partnerships to get things done for vulnerable people…how could we possibly go back?
It is time to start considering more deeply what that longer table looks like.