by Rev. Dr. Janaé Moore
In Times Like These
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.] – 2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP)
As of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, after several months of universal speculation and suspicion, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) officially announced that we are facing a pandemic with the global spread of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus. With reports of the virus now having spread to nearly every part of the globe, herculean efforts are being taken by the majority of countries and communities on relatively all continents to test, treat, slow and, ultimately, to stop the spread of the virus that is having unprecedented impact, in truth, on the lives of us all.
Amid major and massive closures and cancellations—from schools to sports to theatres to conferences to business meetings to churches and other venues, literally, as this is being written—the faith community is neither exempt or immune to the varied reactions we witness to COVID-19. In fact, many look to faith communities for leadership, guidance, support and, literally, lived faith as signs of hope and encouragement for others, including those we deem “the unchurched,” in times like these.
So how do we as faith communities, amid our own personal needs to respond to and care for our families as well as ourselves, evidence our faith in God while hearing and heeding the research-based and professional protocols and guidelines mass distributed for the benefit of us all? How do we, with discernment, decipher through the plethora of information being disseminated about the virus to share with our congregations—data that is factual from that which is solely based on ignorance, fear-mongering and, in some unfortunate instances, the mean-spirited intention of being misleading? How do we actualize our faith as a source and means of help to others to directly address the virus, without spiritualizing our faith to the point that it becomes a source and means of actual harm by indirectly avoiding the virus, i.e., just pray and trust God? How do we even use prayer to wisely make decisions for the benefit of those in our charge and care – imperative decisions about when to meet at church as well as when it is just too risky to do so and other social media options must be implemented? And, once decisions are made not to congregate at church, how will we attend to the psychosocial as well as spiritual needs our congregants and communities will have in the absence of the major historical, theological and ontological roles our churches have played as sources of soul-watering and spirit-nurturing intercessors against the vicissitudes of racism and other isms along with the pain and isolation that too often accompany our experience of them?
We, at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, know firsthand and embrace seriously the critical role, and likewise, the critical responsibility those of us in the African American faith community particularly have to faithfully (not foolishly) serve and support our congregants, constituencies and communities to maneuver through all challenges affecting both our collective and holistic health and well-being and most especially in times like these.
We know that here in this country alone, our survival through the most hideous and inhumane treatment imaginable has only been possible because of the audacious declaration and stand by our ancestors of faith for who we are in spirit and in truth as a God-created, God-sustained and God-loved people. We know well by irrefutable history that what happens in times like these is that our plight, as well as our fight against the outbreak of disease and disaster, tends to be far worse because of institutional racism historically and pervasively embedded in every aspect of our lives resulting in injustices and inequities that position us as social, political and economic outliers, intentionally preventing us from receiving the best information as well as the best treatments needed for our care.
For these reasons and many others, we are compelled at SDPC to honor the call, command, charge, commitment, and caring we have to act in faith, not fear, coupled with sound judgment to address this global pandemic that is amongst us all. Just as the apostle Paul wrote an encouraging and supportive letter to Timothy during times of challenge to remind him that in the midst of all, “God did not give [him nor] us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]”, we remind us, in times like these, of the same.
Hence, it is in this same spirit of power and love and with sound judgment that we, as faith leaders, equip ourselves with the full armor of God to enlighten and inform those who are and have been a part of the SDPC family for the past 17 years. We do so because it is the Proctor way.
And, we do so totally confident that in our faithfulness and personal discipline, the God who has seen us through and has kept us through one life-threatening crisis after another (the immoral and egregious enslavement of our ancestors; Jim Crow; disenfranchisement; lynchings, mass incarceration and the like); this same God will see us through COVID-19.