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.