I can see the family of four who have been in our church for many years, gathered in their living room to watch online through our church’s website. Dad has just lost his job, Mom is wondering how they’re going to make ends meet, and the kids have no idea what calamity is unfolding around them. They’re just glad they get to go to church in their pajamas.
I see the elderly man whose wife passed away a couple of years ago. He is extremely vulnerable to this virus, and he’s living in lonely isolation because of it.
I see the young woman with mental illness. She was already prone to anxiety and depression, and now she’s experiencing fear as she’s never felt before.
I see a couple quarantined with their baby girl. After a family gathering a few days ago, the father’s sister tested positive for the virus, so now they sit and wait to see if they have it, too.
I see the single mom who was already struggling to care for her four children, two of whom have special needs. She was laid off this week, and she doesn’t know what to do next.
I see a middle-aged man who was hopeful that his cough and fever were normal, but who went to the emergency room just in case. Now he’s watching me from a hospital bed, hoping these symptoms subside without further severity.
I also see thousands of men and women who believe that sensibly separating from others in the name of public containment doesn’t prohibit selflessly serving others with personal compassion. I see men and women reaching out to that family of four, that elderly man, that anxious woman, that quarantined couple with their baby, that single mom with her kids, and that middle-aged man in the hospital. I see exhausted nurses, doctors, medical researchers, government officials and grocery store employees who are working long days and sleepless nights for the good of people they don’t even know. I see people who realize that social distancing from each other doesn’t mean we stop caring for each other in wise ways.
I see hundreds of other healthy men and women who are trying to make a difference in dark days. Since the moment that schools and businesses started shutting down because of the pandemic, we have opened our main church building to be a warehouse for receiving, packing, and delivering boxes of food and other necessities to at-risk communities throughout the area.
Now I see men and women volunteering every week to work — within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — as they provide goods to people in need.
In other words, every Sunday of this crisis, I still see the church. I see people who are hurting, and I see people who are helping. I see people who are struggling, and I see people who are serving. Maybe the best way to put it is: Every Sunday, I see thousands of men and women scattered across our city who believe that now more than ever is the time to look to God for hope and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Moreover, I see people beyond our city. Since the first day we moved our Sunday gatherings online, we have had tens of thousands more people join our services. From New York, New Orleans and California. From Italy, South Korea and China. I assume many people who are watching are normally part of a church near their homes. But I also assume that others are not.
In this moment of adversity, I know that people are longing for a sense of community. They are watching a society in chaos, and wondering where they can find comfort. And in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, they share a fundamental desire for otherworldly peace.
So I can assure you: It’s not hard to speak to people whom I can’t see in front of me. I would say that, in some ways, I can see them more clearly now than I could before. And, in this, I believe I have a great privilege: Every Sunday, I get to point multitudes of people here and around the world toward the Author of Peace who alone can generate the headline: “Pandemic No More.”