With cases of COVID-19 on the rise again due to the spread of the Omicron variant, a lot of people I know are staying home again when possible to try to curb the spread of the virus. Indeed, my own congregation has shifted back to virtual-only services, something I think I was in denial of as a possibility until it actually happened. The truth was that I didn’t want to pivot back to stricter precautions because I enjoy congregational life, seeing my folks in person and coming together for spiritual development and enrichment.

In the midst of my Board of Trustees making that decision, something else was happening: my partner and I contracted COVID. It wasn’t anything worse than a moderate cold for either of us, but it was enough to send us into quarantine to rest up. My voice was extremely hoarse so I really couldn’t even take care of a lot of my pastoral tasks. I thought it would be terrible: being confined to my apartment for days, just watching television and responding to emails when I could. I was dreading it.

Yet I had a different experience. Almost immediately, emails started flooding into my inbox from members of my congregation, well wishes for my partner and me about our little case of COVID. Many of them included the provision to let them know if we needed anything. Three of my members stepped up to produce a remote service on Zoom for the first time since July, and without their minister. And a member of my Congregational Support Committee went and picked up an order from Kroger for us as we were nearly out of groceries.

I would rather we be together in person. I don’t much fancy the virtual church experience, and it’s not why I became a minister. Yet it’s true that, when the stakes are high, you really get to see the character of a community.

I’m not saying you need to get COVID in order to test whether you have caring communities or not, but I wonder how the groups important to you would respond in the midst of such a crisis? I don’t pretend that my experience with my congregation is emblematic of the way all congregations respond all the time; even in my congregation, it’s still to be seen whether everyone would have found the type of care I got helpful. But I do believe that Beloved Community responds with kindness and compassion when the stakes are high and help is needed.

I wonder, have your communities thought about how they would respond to a crisis? Too often, procrastination means we don’t think about how to respond to such dilemmas until we are in the midst of an emergency. Then, our response becomes a reaction, and often an unhelpful or even hurtful one as we respond with what we personally think would be useful rather than what our loved ones actually need.

Part of being a caring community is thinking through how we show up and what care looks like. It’s not leaving these questions to chance or reaction. It’s knowing what to do before crisis strikes.

How does your congregation or community show up when the stakes are high? How do you show that you are caring for those you care about?

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