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During This Pandemic, It Wouldn’t Hurt To Have Affairs In Order

Every church youth group has a least one of them — an enthusiastic, extroverted teen who is the life of the party and always delighted to meet someone new. And when she does, she naturally begins with an icebreaker: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Yes, in the midst of the world disruption called the coronavirus, what superpower would you choose?

In times of trial, we often look beyond ourselves for assistance as we turn to our families, our community and to our God. And yet, in the midst of the pandemic with all of its social distancing, we find ourselves needing to keep physically separate. And while it is not safe to gather in ‘our’ pews at our church to find solace and connection, that does not mean that we cannot connect to God and our neighbors in new and creative ways.

We, the faith leaders of Chautauqua County, have been gathering weekly via video conferencing to resource ourselves and our communities in this difficult moment — connecting in prayer and mobilizing for action. Since we cannot convene our communities or minister in the physical ways that we are accustomed, we are looking inside ourselves to connect with our God-given ‘superpowers’ and we encourage you to do the same.

We invite you to seize upon the power of prayer — which connects all the Saints of God to our Creator and Sustainer. We know that prayer works and the God acts in real and specific ways in our lives and so we ask you to pray for God’s protection and healing in our community. As the psalmist writes, “The LORD is close to everyone who calls out to God, to all who call out to God sincerely” (Ps 145:8). It is our prayer life that will sustain us in this difficult hour.

We invite you to practice wisdom. When God asked King Solomon to choose any superpower, he chose wisdom…and I think now is the moment when we must do the same. It is wisdom that allows us to commit to maintain the public health by staying home. It is wisdom that leads us to love our neighbors.

Lastly, we invite you to tap into the same resurrection power that Jesus demonstrated when he laid down his life. Before doing so he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” And as we are facing a frightening and deadly global pandemic, we are invited to embrace the same loving ethic the Jesus embodied. To think beyond merely what serves us and our families and to imagine how we can serve our neighbors.

It is the last point that deserves some more attention. If the pandemic follows the same course as it has in Italy, Spain and now New York City, we are going to be facing some difficult life and death decisions. Although death is one of the few certainties of life, it is not a prospect we like to spend much time thinking about, let alone discussing. And yet, that is what physicians and medical care workers will be forced to do in our community. We have limited resources and there may come a moment when they will be forced to decide who receives one of the few precious ventilators. We need to brace ourselves and our loved ones for this possibility.

Also, for the new reality that our loved ones can’t go into the hospital with us, nor we with them. It wouldn’t hurt to get our affairs in order, to tell people that we love them, forgive and ask for forgiveness; especially those we haven’t spoken with recently.

As faith leaders, we believe in the sanctity of life– that every moment and every breath is a gift given by God to cherish. As faithful believers, we trust that life is changed and not ended when a person dies. We know that when our mortal bodies lie in death, that there is prepared for us a dwelling place in eternal life. Therefore, we can live courageously and die courageously. We can prepare for the impending health crisis and the impossible choices the health care professionals will be forced to make by letting our loved ones know what our final wishes are. We can choose to honor life by allowing other folks (those with young children or who are sick physicians whose recovered health could support the recovery of others) preferred access to medical supports like respirators. Now is the time for ordinary superheroes like you.

Members of the Faith Leaders of Chautauqua County who contributed to this piece are the Rev. Luke Fodor, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church; the Rev. Roy Ferguson, Busti Church of God; the Rev. Steven Taylor, Panama United Methodist Church; the Rev. Dennis Mende, Holy Apostles Parish; the Rev. Mel McGinnis, Kiantone Community Church; and others. The group is working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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