The actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson recently contracted the coronavirus COVID-19 and are self-quarantined in Australia, where Hanks is shooting a new movie. To reassure his fans, Hanks posted on social media: “Hey folks. Good news: One week after testing positive, in self-isolation, the symptoms are much the same. No fever but the blahs.”
Hanks’s upbeat post from the frontline stood out amid a plethora of grim headlines. We all know that the virus is spreading inexorably into every country, town and village across the world. There are more and more cases reported every day, and financial markets are plunging.
In a short space of time, the coronavirus has turned our lives upside down. It is an unsettling and at times upsetting experience. Last Monday, after breakfast at the Hollywood Grill on Concord Pike – the diner closed its doors later that day – Ruth and I went to Giant to do some shopping. There we found shelves emptied of food and provisions. Is the store closing? we asked, although we knew the real reason why.
In the current climate of fear, it feels as though we are in a darkened tunnel and the only light ahead is that of an oncoming train. However, how bad are things really? COVID-19, although extremely infectious, is not the plague. The death toll will rise but crime, and other more deadly diseases, take a greater human toll on our human society. In an ideal world, the supermarket shelves wouldn’t be empty, because our neighbors would provide for us in our need. Churches would remain open, because churches provide a place of hope, community and stability. That is why St Barnabas remains open, even if services are suspended.
But we are having to rethink what it means to be “church” in this unprecedented time. With everyone hunkering down, one way is for us to keep in touch is through telephone calls. The human voice can be soothing in times of uncertainty and isolation – in fact, someone once wrote that intimate and honest conversations are easier by telephone than face to face.
Love and connection is the Christian way to oppose the current message of isolation and quarantine. On this subject, I want to share with you a message I received today from one of our members who has been calling others to check on them and exchange concerns about the current situation. This is what they wrote:
“I realized something this morning while I was praying. That giving alms is not just about money or material things such as food, etc. That giving people your time and attention and letting them know you care about them is, in fact, a form of giving alms. This never occurred to me before. God does speak to me when I stop to listen.”
Avoid the temptation to introspection and instead reach out to your neighbor. To do so is to invite God’s blessing upon you. I will pray that you will all be blessed in this time of testing.
May God keep you safe, (and please remember to wash your hands.)