Sister Dottie Almoney led a Zoom Sunday School discussion on January 31, 2021 about church during the pandemic. Lynn Stover, church member and discussion participant, offered some insight from his experiences in public education, contact tracing, and the peace corps. Sister Dottie asked if Lynn would be willing to put his words into writing. We want to thank Lynn for contributing to this blog post about the church in the time of pandemic.
On Sunday, January 31, 2020, questions were posed to a mixed class of adults, confirmands and adults, by Sister Dottie regarding how life and church has been and will continue to be affected by the pandemic. Several members were very emotional as they responded and seemed to have had their usual optimism and hope lowered a little. I responded as follows:
This pandemic has affected us all in significant ways. It has kept us apart as a church community and it has caused each of us to, at times, despair. It has been a test of faith for sure. We pray and, at times, it may not seem to be having much of an effect. It is easy to believe that it will never end. I ask you to take heart and hold on a little while
longer. God is with us during every step of this challenging journey and has given us the capabilities to solve this daunting disease physically and spiritually. This may not yet be the end, but it certainly can be viewed as the beginning of the end. Here is why I believe that is true.
I retired from teaching on June 4th, 2020, and took a position with Penn Medicine-Lancaster General Health (PM-LGH) as a Contact Tracer less than a month later. I have talked to many people with COVID-19 and followed the course of the disease in Lancaster County. Late in June, treatment and vaccine options were limited and ways of helping affected persons with barriers weren’t as well developed as they are now. However, vaccines are now here and distribution – slow to begin, for sure – is now ramping up.
These vaccines have higher than anticipated efficacy rates. They will soon begin to significantly alter the length of the pandemic. Effective treatment options have now been developed that have already made a significant impact on the severity and lethality of COVID-19. The positive case numbers – those who have COVID-19 – where I work have decreased significantly after the surge over the holidays. The options to assist those with barriers to isolation and quarantine are also much improved.
Many have stepped up to help those in need. I want to mention the United Way as one organization that has helped so many in our community. And, let us not forget our own efforts through Lydia’s Closet here at St. Peters who assist those in need. Those of us in PM-LGH like to say that we are trying as hard as we can to work ourselves out of a job. My point is that perhaps my need to find another job is evidence that maybe, just maybe, our prayers are being answered. But, it is possible that God will allow us to turn from despair to hope in yet another important way.
The time we have spent away from each other during this pandemic provides us yet another possibility for positive change. I know I have certainly missed all of you. I think it is safe to say that we have probably all reflected on how we have missed the members of our church community so very, very much. Perhaps this opportunity to reset our relationships will make us less judgmental and more accepting of each other, now that we realize how deeply interconnected we are. We really do need each other to be fully realized and happy. It was always there for us to see, but sometimes we just aren’t as aware as God asks us to be. When I lived in North Africa for three years, I realized how important church was to me. After a year, I found an Anglican church to attend in Tunis, Tunisia, but could attend only infrequently. I remember how happy the members of that church were to see me, when I was able to attend. It was an absolute gift and kindness that is provided by the church God gives us. This past year, I have had a lot of time to connect the dots from that experience to this one. I have often pondered if God might speak to us in the present, maybe this is evidence of that being possible.
Fellow members of St. Peters: Have hope, keep praying and hang in
there, just a little while longer. Your prayers will be answered soon.