As I write this article, schools are out, restaurants are only doing take out, and our church has closed to protect our church family and the community, just like all the churches around us.
While it is the right thing to do, it feels very strange! God designed us for community, to be raised in families, to be encouraged by our relationships in school and work and society, and to understand that we are beloved by God through our families of faith.
How we will be in community now will be challenging!
The Apostle Paul described the church as the Body of Christ, using that metaphor to emphasize that all are given different gifts and all are needed for the body to function to continue Christ’s mission to reconcile the whole world through God’s love.
What Teresa of Avila wrote in the 4th century still inspires: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
The good news is that we can be the body of Christ even if we can’t physically meet together.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian and martyr, wrote that we are “an indispensable link in the chain.” I believe this is true when we talk about life in the broader community as well, whether or not we claim any faith tradition.
While in the past we might have been able to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others in foreign lands, even across town, what this crisis has exposed is indeed how connected and interdependent and vulnerable we all are. If we didn’t know it before, we surely do now; our health and our future are globally interdependent, inextricably intertwined.
So while this connection has been revealed to us through this frightening time of pandemic, perhaps it can cause us to be a bit more empathetic toward those we have ignored or shunned or discounted, whether a neighbor down the street, or halfway around the world.
Perhaps this time can cause us to be more gracious to others, to appreciate the simple things in life (like the availability of toilet paper!) but more importantly the connections that have sustained and nurtured us, and perhaps, just perhaps, motivate us to reach out and initiate connections, and through them to share our blessings with others.
By the time this article is in print, I suspect the need to help one another will be even greater. Whether you resonate with being a part of Christ’s body or “an indispensable link in the chain,” being either will require creativity, discomfort and courage.
But I think it opens up the possibility that stronger bonds and greater empathy will emerge, making our community kinder, more inclusive and more resilient.
By God’s grace, may it be so as we all do our part.
Rev. Christine Herrin is the senior pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton.