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It’s been one year since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States.

Since then, the world has undergone significant changes, myself included. Therefore, after one year of living through a global pandemic, I find it necessary to step into the confessional booth and make some observations on how COVID-19 reshaped my faith.

Enduring the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped my faith at these points:

  1. God’s creation is both beautiful and horrifying.

Let’s begin with the latter first. A single disease attacked over 101 million humans, leading to over 2.1 million deaths and paralyzing the rest of the world.

As much as humans consider themselves the center of God’s creation, the truth of the matter remains that we live in a living and delicate ecosystem possessing the power to eliminate humanity. Therefore, we must always take our responsibility as caretakers seriously, ensuring ecological responsibility and justice.

On the other hand, the pandemic provided an opportunity for me to get more in-tune with nature. Long walks punctuated my days and offered opportunities for communion with God.

Sitting on the back patio listening to the wind reminded me of the Holy Spirit moving across the earth. Watching my feathered friends enjoy the feeders reminded me of the simple beauties of nature.

  1. The centrality of Jesus holds my faith and practice together, challenging preconceived ideas and opening my eyes to new possibilities.

As a local church pastor and organizational leader, it can be easy to drift from following Jesus to arguing points of theology and their implications. However, in isolation, a relationship with Jesus is paramount to challenging and edifying one’s faith.

Hearing and seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus challenged me to rethink preconceived notions, freeing me to refocus on the true importance of faith. Simply stated, every point of theological belief and practice must flow from love.

Everything Jesus said and did came from love, setting others up as the recipients of grace, mercy, forgiveness, justice and hope. Therefore, recentering my faith in Jesus can never be a bad decision.

  1. Worship centers on the divine, complemented by a variety of encounters and expressions.

I’ve never been one worried too much about the worship wars. In fact, I enjoy a variety of musical styles and artistic expressions as the Beloved Community worships together. Living in quarantine undergirded this approach for me.

Since most churches moved their Sunday morning to virtual experiences, I have been able to participate in a variety of worship services like never before.

Let me begin by thanking all pastors, ministers and leaders for their creativity and commitment to offer such wonderful experiences. The global church is certainly a mosaic of cultural expressions centered on worshipping God.

When God remains at the center, worship remains genuine and authentic.

  1. Community is more important now than ever before.

Before the pandemic began, I found myself running from city to city to meetings and gatherings. It was so exciting, but I can remember about a two-week stint thinking to myself, “It sure would be nice for some alone time every now and again.” Then, the pandemic hit, and quarantine became the norm.

As a pastor for over 20 years, I always loved the churches and people I served. There was nothing better than Sunday mornings and Wednesday night dinners.

However, COVID-19 has taught me what I really missed is a relational community where conversations and shared lives abound. If there is one thing that I am looking forward to more than anything, it’s dinners on a patio with friends and conversations at our favorite coffee shops.

  1. Liberation theology became central to my understanding and practice of Christianity. If enduring a global pandemic was not enough, the United States experienced one of the greatest social uprisings in its history.

Reacting to the ongoing murders of Black citizens by police, millions of people took to the streets this summer, advocating for reform and justice.

As a progressive thinker and theologian, I have always admired liberation theology from afar. The idea that God advocates and works for the poor and oppressed always seemed to follow my interpretation and application of the Bible.

However, listening to my Black colleagues and friends talk about systemic racism and our deep need to be liberated from its stranglehold challenged and inspired me.

Christians need to be leaders in their communities, speaking out with, and working alongside, the poor and marginalized.

The love of Jesus has no meaning or purpose without bold action associated with it. If Christians truly believe in the transformative properties of the gospel, then we need to work hard to make certain the words and actions of Jesus engage our communities.

  1. There is no differentiating between personal and communal responsibility.

Growing up in fundamentalist Baptist churches, an emphasis on personal salvation and responsibility outweighed other aspects of the gospel. Pastors and denominational leaders seemed way more concerned about my soul than the world around us. And when they were, it was a concern based on a continuation of white Christian nationalism set against the alleged rise of liberalism, communism and secularism.

When I was asked to think about my fellow humans, the emphasis was never on my own guilt and responsibility for systems and structures of oppression and inequality, but rather on converting them to our ways that indicated they were taking “personal” responsibility for their own lives.

This flawed emphasis negates the personal responsibility we have as caretakers for others. Genuine personal responsibility considers personal actions leading to injustices while at the same time embracing a communal responsibility.

For me, this is at the heart of the lesson from the Good Samaritan. Even though we possess a myriad of differences, we all have the personal responsibility to care for others.

Therefore, we are both personally and communally responsible for our actions and the actions of others. Shirking these responsibilities – even one of them – sets into motion a very individualistic theology where the most important person is me and the most valid theology is mine.

Taking responsibility for ourselves and others signifies our recognition of being an individual living within a community.

There are more points of my faith that have been reshaped, but these are the ones most significant for me at this moment.

Good Faith Media would be interested in hearing from you. How has this global pandemic reshaped your faith and life?

Did moments from the last year change your perspective or outlook on anything? Are you a different person than you were in January 2020?

If you have a story to tell, write it down and submit it to Good Faith Media by emailing us at info@goodfaithmedia.org. We would love to hear from you.

This last year has caused a great deal of strain and anxiety, but we also know a lot of goodness has emerged.

At Good Faith Media, we understand we are all in this together and need each other to move forward. So, step into the confessional and let’s hear from you.

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