Updates from the Chair — March 2020: Ministry During a Pandemic

Hello Friends, 

As I write this, Switzerland has put into place many restrictions of movement to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It means that many people, myself included, are staying and working at home, only going out if it’s absolutely necessary, and doing a lot more communication online. We expect Switzerland to close its borders any day now, especially since Germany already has. 

I am in one of the most highly affected countries in the world, and it has been very difficult to adjust to the way life is right now. A lot of people have needed ministerial support just to process the scale and scope of what’s happening, including myself. We will need our communities most desperately in the days to come and our work will become much harder. 

The restriction of movement will make it difficult for us clergy to do church and ministry in the ways we usually do. It is time we get creative in our work, to think of ways to serve our community that will reduce harm. From a lot of my own observations of how groups all over the world are handling church in this time, I have a few suggestions for ProgCA clergy:

  • Find alternate ways to have services. Many pastors are holding services via online platforms. Most of you don’t have large congregations, but if you do, consider cancelling services for the time being.  If you have a small group that still wishes to meet in person, make sure everyone follows the World Health Organization guidelines of handwashing and space. If you are sick, stay home!
  • Help your elderly community members in either getting them access to your online services, or making sure they can be reached by phone. They will also need help in getting food and medicine if they don’t have other family or friends to help them. Isolation for elders is going to be more of a problem, but even just a call can help elders feel a little more connected. 
  • Find ways to support your hospital chaplains, even if it’s just being someone they can talk to. If you are a hospital chaplain and are still allowed to work, make sure the hospital is providing you with appropriate PPE. 
  • Help folks to process their fear, anger, and grief. Also remember that you will need that help as well, and reach out to friends, family, or fellow clergy. Remember, everyone will process this in their own way and a pandemic is a hard thing to wrap one’s brain around. 
  • Remember our social justice aims during this time and help to combat racism, hatred, and misinformation.

This isn’t, by any means, all of what you can do to help yourself and others during this time. If there are other ways you have thought of to do ministry during this time, please feel free to share your stories in the comments of this blog post or in our Facebook groups. 

Remember, we are all in community, koinonia, through Jesus, through each other, and through the fact that we are all human. We can get through this, but it will be hard. It will take time and a great deal of compassion from all of us. Let us follow the compassionate example of Jesus and take care of our communities.  Let us lead by example, and let us connect with and support one another.

May Jesus, God in His many names, and all the Spirits of the Universe watch over us and help us through this pandemic. 

Blessings to you all, 

Rev. Gina

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