Do you remember the last time places of worship were formally asked to close? To my knowledge it happened over 100 years ago during the Spanish flu epidemic. We are indeed living in extraordinary times!
As pastors, we are called to be a calm presence during times of turmoil. In the words of a pastor from Wuhan during the height of the crisis there, “[Christ’s] peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things.” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/february-web-only/coronavirus-fears-mean-we-need-more-communion-not-less.html)
Visiting your people through telephone and electronic media is something you may not be accustomed to or enjoy. Many of you naturally prefer in-person meetings. Because of discomfort, you may find your level of anxiety during this period of social distancing rising. In addition, having to cancel so many activities, including corporate worship, might lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Having to work from home with children about can lead to great frustration. That is why, more than ever, you need to take care of yourselves.
Right now, you have more time now to nurture your souls, but beware. The evil one will take advantage of the heightened sense of fear around us to bring confusion, loneliness and even despair. Your people need you to stay strong and filled with hope.
Here’s my encouragement to you: remember to care for yourself. How?
Care for your Physical Body
If your children are at home, have fun with them. Play games and run around in your yard with them. Give yourself permission to be with them. I believe God can refresh and teach us through time spent with our children.
Pay attention to your diet, especially if you are not used to work from home. I know when I am working from home there are more snacks available!
Allow yourself to take a personal retreat during the week. Although we may not notice, this uncharted time of pandemic takes more out of us than we realize. Recognize that adrenaline flows more freely in times of crisis. Pace yourself. Conserve your energies for the long haul. Take time away from the news and social media. Make time to be silent with God. Walks are great for that – and for the body!
Feelings of isolation can easily creep in after we have been away from personal contact with our people for a week or more. Don’t forget your colleagues. Connect with them through telephone or other electronic means. Remember, they are going thought the same thing! Let your pastoral colleagues know they are not alone. Share your thoughts, struggles, and ministry ideas with them.
We have very little control over the events that have brought about the closure of our worship places. We do have control over how we react to those events. Our faith and trust in God will enable us to remain strong. May Habakkuk’s words be also our own:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3: 17-19).