Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Dispatch From a Viral Hot Zone

Written by: on March 13, 2020

I am going to admit right up front that I did not read this week’s book. My life has been consumed by the virus. Thankfully no one in my family has contracted it yet, but pretty much every other part of our lives have been disrupted by it. If you are not aware, western Washington – where I live – is one of the most strongly affected portions of the United States by the virus. One of my largest clients is the largest medical system in the state, so my work life is all about quick and vital updates to their sites. When I am not making updates we are planning the next tool to help them help people get the information they need and to the places they need to be. Needless to say the progress I have been hoping to make on other projects has pretty much stopped. We are being told to work from home as much as possible and to make all meetings remote. The Governor has banned all public gatherings larger than 250 participants. Our church is having an entirely remote worship service on Sunday. All schools in the region will be closed come Monday, meaning that the kids will need care during the day while we are working. I guess it is a good thing I will be home anyway. Meanwhile I have to find a way to cancel our family trip to see my parents, without losing much of our investment. My dad is immunocompromised, contraction of the virus would likely be deadly for him, so his kids visiting from a viral hot zone is about the last thing he needs. All that is to say that I haven’t really found time to read.

In light of all that I just threw at you, I have a few questions myself. How does the church speak into this situation without sounding naive or delusional? How can the church be a source of peace and calm when everyone is filled with anxiety – even the members of the church? How do we have holy and meaningful worship services in a mostly empty building on Facebook Live? How do we help our most vulnerable that do not have access to tubs of hand sanitizer or soap? But mostly I wonder how do we love people well when we are supposed to maintain physical distance?

My research is in hospitality and I can usually find a way to slide that area into my posts, but I am a little bit at a loss at how to hold space for others when being close is discouraged. Perhaps the best sort of hospitality in this sort of situation is grace. Allowing people to take the precautions the see necessary. Asking permission to come in close. Realizing that one of the reasons to keep yourself clean is about not infecting someone else, rather than only your good. Providing the space for people to be honest about their fears and anxieties in this time.

I pray this thing passes quickly, but if it does not the church’s ability to be a source of peace will be a necessary component to helping people through. Do we have answers for the questions I listed – and all the ones I have not thought of yet.

About the Author

Sean Dean

An expat of the great state of Maine where the lobster is cheap and the winters are brutal I've settled in as a web developer in Tacoma, Washington. As a foster-adoptive parent of 3 beautiful boys, I have deep questions about the American church's response to the public health crisis that is our foster system.

9 responses to “Dispatch From a Viral Hot Zone”

  1. Leadership, whether it be sacred or secular, will be stretched to the max during these uncertain times. You raise a lot of good questions in how we ought to care for people God has entrusted to us. What is considered careful and measured response now-a-days when social media is blasting information at us? If there’s ever a time we need God’s wisdom and grace, it’s now. Stay safe there brother. My wife and I walked the streets of Seattle on the 8th. We decided to stay away from our elderly parents who we routinely visit. While it’s strange, we decided it’s the loving thing to do.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Praying for you Sean and all in that hot zone. You asked some really great questions and I think the church going forward will need to be prepared to answer better. Reading you talk about your response to your job to me is the definition of hospitality. Thanks for the great post.

    • Sean Dean says:

      Thank you Mario. The church has a chance to be both a source of peace and a provider of hospitality in this time. I hope you, your family and church find ways to stay safe and bring peace to those around you.

  3. Thank you Sean for addressing this matter that has literally disrupted the entire world. I pray that God‘s protection will be on you and your family at this time. Needless to say, we’re also in the middle of the crisis, albeit in a seemingly ‘smaller’ way with the first case In country confirmed Friday. My biggest concern is the over 21,000 children in our schools across the country, from very vulnerable families, living in congested and unhygienic environments and with no means of accessing sanitizers and soap may not be a priority. I can only look up and cry out to God for their protection as the only practical response which incidentally and by all means is the most sure help. We have this sure hope in Christ that we can share and comfort the discomfited world. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Rhonda Davis says:

    Praying for you, Sean. I can see a direct line from your questions to your research on hospitality. It seems the church has the opportunity to be hospitable in ways that we sometimes forget…help for the elderly, sharing supplies with a neighbor, caring for the children of friends who must go into the office. Perhaps these seemingly small actions represent the hospitality of Jesus in ways our large gatherings cannot.

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Much prayer and many blessings to you and yours in the midst of your viral hot zone! Glo’s chemo and radiation state certainly have given me a keen insight into the danger for all who are at most health risk. Of course, I can’t begin to think of the economic, financial, and family impact of canceled events, industries coming to a standstill, and families trying to deal with their children being educated from home (we have already installed similar restrictions in Houston). You always ask such great questions. How can the Church respond with hospitable love and grace in this hour? Someone said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I wonder how our creative God will move us to create new expressions of hospitality in response to COVID-19? Praying for you and yours, Brother!

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