To say that this past year and a half has been a challenge is an understatement.
As a parent, I watched as our middle son faced the challenge and disappointment of having to relocate back home from Boston after the much-anticipated experience of doing his master’s degree work in such a beautiful, historic city.
Along with other parents, I also struggled as my high school-age daughter wrestled to remain focused, engaged and productive, day after day, doing online learning, particularly as a person with ADHD.
From a community leader and pastor perspective, it was almost dizzying, keeping up with numerous Zoom call sessions, engaging with other faith leaders, health care professionals, business owners and community members, fearing and in many instances experiencing the worst.
So many endured helplessly, watching loved ones face hospitalizations, rapid deterioration, ventilators and death. They experienced incredible shock and grief, unable to say good-bye to loved ones in person, and then they were severely limited in terms of honoring sacred traditions of funerals, consolation meals, warm embraces and the ministry of presence.
At times, the well-intentioned messages of caution created confusion and divisions – “masks are for the other person, not you” then “masks are necessary to protect you after all”. … “If you receive the vaccination from one product producer (Pfizer), don’t get the second one from another producer (Moderna) then “Well, if push comes to shove, it’s OK to get the vaccine from another producer if the original is not available”.
In fairness, with this new, rapid, overwhelming and deadly world pandemic, scientists and medical professionals were doing their utmost to learn, understand and protect the world, all at the same time.
They deserve much praise for their sacrifices and herculean efforts to save lives. Their cautions, no matter how many twists and turns, helped many to survive.
Thankfully, my family and most members of our congregation have received the vaccination.
Amid all this turmoil, many opportunities continue to spring forth.
The pandemic forced us to look with fresh eyes upon ways to come together in worship, work and play. Churches were compelled to expand beyond the “four walls” and venture into the vast ocean of technological praise.
Our church began using conference call worship and Zoom, and we have seen our attendance triple.
We were able to form beautiful collaborations with other ministries, hospitals, community programs and educational institutions to offer COVID-19 testing and education and to provide masks, hand sanitizers, pre-packaged meals and so on.
We also engaged in voter registration drives, holding Zoom town hall meetings to answer questions about the mail-in voter process as well as where candidates stood on various issues.
Many community groups have learned the value of meeting virtually. Their attendance at meetings has increased and their productivity has flourished. Many are now debating whether or not they will return to the former way of doing things.
Has the pain of the pandemic produced a silver lining and golden opportunity for growth, renewed vision and a brighter future? Yes! We have faced the giant and are emerging victorious.
Are there yet many more rivers to cross? Absolutely. We have recently learned of the Delta variant that is coming this fall.
We still don’t know if the current vaccinations will hold up against this new thread of COVID-19. However, the lessons that we have learned over the past year and a half position us to continue to move ahead with caution, wisdom and faith.
Amid the challenges and cautions, may we remember the lessons learned, embrace new opportunities and keep hope alive.
Through faith, with the help of our Lord, we are more than conquerors.
Editor’s note: From June through August, articles will be published from faith leaders reflecting on the pandemic ministry adjustments they enacted, looking ahead to the future or both. If you’d like to submit a column for consideration, email it to email@example.com.
Senior pastor of Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland. She is the author of “Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.”