From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Dr. Simon Lee, Senior Pastor
Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,
It has been 4 months since the lockdown due to the pandemic. During this time, every week I sit down literally at the Pastor’s Desk, which now is my study desk at home, and wonder what I can say from my heart that would be of any encouragement to our brothers and sisters at RCAC. Now four months after, to be honest, I am starting to feel dry at times and wonder whether there is anything more to say during this difficult time that has not already been said. This is in contrast to the beginning of this period when I return to more writing and felt I really had something to say and was able to reclaim writing (from my professorial days) as my form of ministry to you all. Those around me and I also notice that at times I may be repeating myself, which surely are signs that I am running out of things to say. I confess to my team regularly I am learning to be a pastor like a rooky all over again. Let me hasten to add this does not mean God has nothing more to say, and it is more an admission of how inadequate I feel right now, and that I and all our pastors need your prayer support too. Let’s support each other in prayer.
Almost every day we hear Dr. Bonnie Henry say, “Be kind, be calm and be safe” at the end of her updates on the pandemic, and it is indeed good and simple wisdom that we should heed. We have looked at what it means to “be kind” and “be calm” and they are attitudes we should have in facing the current pandemic. Having these attitudes enables us to take critical actions to “stay safe.”
- How to “stay safe”?
To “stay safe” means that we try our best to not get sick by staying away from the danger of coming into contact with, and being infected (and affected) by the coronavirus which is actively present everywhere.
By now we all now know that washing our hands frequently, not touching our face (eyes, nose and mouth), clean different surfaces regularly with disinfectant, wearing masks when in close contact with others, maintaining physical distancing (1-2 metres), avoid crowds and other similar preventive measures all help to lower the risk of infection. Also, keeping ourselves healthy with healthy diet and exercises (physically active) help us to be less vulnerable. Physical distancing and lowering the numbers of contacts with people (avoiding big gatherings) also help us and others from getting sick. If we have symptoms, we should stay home.
But to “stay safe” is more than being vigilant and alert on our own when we are facing a threat; it is to habitually live a life that is ready to face any attacks (e.g. COVID) as our preventive behaviour is already second nature to us. Dr. Bonnie Henry has written a book in 2009 and reissued in 2020 called, Soap and Water & Common Sense, where she documented her lifelong interest in public health and preventive medicine, and where she gives us a guide to staying healthy in a germ-filled world. Dr. Henry says, “I often call it ‘uncommon sense,’” believing that ‘common sense’ (conventional wisdom) like frequent handwashing often does work and we should practice it regularly. Prevention is better than cure. Maybe it is better to think of it as “staying safe” (habitually) rather than just “stay safe” in times of danger.
- To “stay safe” is to live a full, healthy and holistic life
I like to add also “to stay safe” is to recognize that each human being is a physical-psycho-socio-spiritual whole, and therefore our physical health is intimately tied to our psycho-socio-spiritual well-being. Our mental health, our healthy networks of support and our spiritual resources all contribute to maintaining physical health. Psychologically, we need cognitively and emotionally to come to terms with our current reality and stay healthy. If we are stable in our personal psychological well-being (be calm), then we will be able to relate lovingly with our neighbours (be kind), as everyone is suffering the effects of the pandemic. When anxiety and pain becomes unbearable and there is no solution in sight, we need spiritual resources that lift us up and give us a transcendent perspective. All these things help to cut down the pressure we experience and lower our health risk so that we can feel and be more secure (stay safe).
During this pandemic, I have been struck by how the vast majority of people are gravely concerned about our physical health and not wanting to get sick. When we finally realized that we are in a deadly pandemic due to COVID-19, most people have taken it seriously, and some even have been taken over by panic and anxiety, especially when tens of thousands of people around the world are dying each day as a result of the Coronavirus. When western medicine has yet to come up with a cure and when the vaccine has yet to be developed, suddenly folk remedies and alternate medicine become rampant, all promising miraculous cure or prevention, and they do not lack people who believe in them. We all want to have a miracle drug to keep us healthy physically, the sooner the better.
However, somehow we all, to varying degrees, resist the public health and preventive measures that have been suggested as we do not put much weight to the psychological and social factors and dimensions of our health, not to mention the spiritual. As said, we are psycho-social beings living in a society together, and any outbreak can start with one person or a small pocket of people. So personal health must be maintained communally through public health. This is one other reason why the church our faith community is so important as we can practice “staying safe” together (“staying together by staying apart”) and be of mutual encouragement to each other, and learn to “be kind” and “be calm.” The Church should be a place where our spirituality is awakened and where we together can draw strength from the power of God.
- The safest place on earth
The safest place on earth; where people connect and are forever changed is a book by Christian psychologist, Larry Crabb, published in 1999. The book talks about how the church, rather than being a place for people to display their goodness and hide their failures in fear of censure, it should be open, supportive, and compassionate in dealing with our weaknesses. The pandemic has brought out much of our weaknesses, but we can together accept each other in the Christian community and make the church “the safest place on earth.” Due to the pandemic, people who suffer losses in personal health, even deaths within the family, loss of job and security…, should be able to find the Church community a place where they can find peace, compassion, support and comfort. Is RCAC such a church?
In the New Normal, we have already observed that a new anxiety has crept into our lives, the anxiety of wanting to go back to the old normal quickly, and the impatience with the slow and cautious reopening that we are going through even as we enter Phase 3 of the reopening in our Province of BC. We need to continue to stay vigilant and not let down our guard lest we trigger a second outbreak of the Coronavirus, like what is already happening in a few countries around the world. Therefore we may need to continue for a while the way we have been “doing Church.” We need to keep staying safe. May we find that safety in our home and family, as well as in our Church community.
In August, we are planning to resume in a safe way some of our activities (including the summer children events) within our church building, I urge you all to follow the protocol we have set up so that we can “be kind, be calm and be safe,” by being the Church that displays the character of Christ, kind, calm and loving.
In facing the pandemic, we have considered carefully the instruction of Dr. Henry to “be kind, be calm and be safe”, from a health perspective as well as a Christian perspective. I would like to conclude this series with the words of Paul: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7) Amen.
Your servant in Christ
Rev. Dr. Simon Lee