Epidemic Loneliness? – Covid 19 and the Maine Conference
4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
By now, we have all heard much too much about the Coronavirus. We are washing our hands. Trying not to touch our faces. Avoiding people if we have cold/flu symptoms. Staying home if we feel sick. Watching the news to see where new cases are occurring. And so on.
In our churches, we have stopped touching one another at passing of the peace and we are receiving Communion in as sanitary a way as possible. I’ve been impressed with the response of our Pastors and church leaders as we all try to respond to this potential threat with the appropriate level of attention, and without overreaction or panic. So far, I think we are doing well. As new information or advice emerges, we will share it with you. For now, here is a webpage created by the UCC to gather and share up-to-date information. https://www.ucc.org/disaster_coronavirus_resources_from_the_ucc
At the Maine Conference office, we’re talking about how we would run the Conference if we had to send people home. (It’s easy for us, actually, with the good technology we have in place.) We are thinking about Pilgrim Lodge and monitoring advice from the CDC and the American Camping Association. I have been on calls with other Conference Ministers and our UCC national leaders as we think together about our best response. We are well-informed and making a measured and intentional response.
In the midst of all of the information and speculation, I realize one thing that worries me most is the way this virus could affect our relationships and mental health. Our churches are overwhelmingly populated with elder folks, who are the most vulnerable to infection. For so many of our church members and friends, Sunday worship, monthly meetings, and church events are central to our sense of belonging and community. At church, we feed not only our faith, but our spirit and heart. At church we have a place to give of ourselves, to connect with others and push back the loneliness that is a real epidemic in our culture. For some of our most vulnerable people, a sensible response to the coronavirus threat could be to isolate at home. But, our most vulnerable people should not be left alone.
What is our Disaster Preparedness Plan to battle Loneliness? How would we stay in touch, share worship long-distance on Sunday, make sure people have adequate food and medicines if we have to stay at home? Maybe we need to refresh our phone trees, which may have fallen into disuse with the advent of the internet. Maybe we increase our plans for visitation by healthy people. This is a time to focus on our most vulnerable people, both medically and interpersonally. At the Conference office, we are thinking about how we might use Facebook, Zoom and other media to stay in touch and share experiences. What would your plans be?
I would welcome ideas for maintaining connection, community and care during this time of heightened awareness. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com. And let us pray that this virus has only limited impact and recedes as soon as possible. My prayers are with us all in these challenging times.
In Christ’s Peace,
Deborah J. Blood