Vladyka Irénée has just sent out a letter directing that all church services be suspended until at least the end of March to support the nation’s “social distancing” efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
It is important to note that this is not about fear of getting the virus. Medical experts predict that because no one has any immunity to this new virus, most of us – or at least a very large portion of the population – will get the virus, eventually. The idea behind these “social distancing” efforts is to slow down the spread of the virus so that
- the medical system does not get overwhelmed by a sudden massive influx of patients who all need intensive care at the same time,
- we are all being more cautious and deliberate in our movements so that we can better protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus, particularly the elderly and those whose immune systems are already compromised, and
- those researching how best to deal with the virus (developing treatments, vaccines, etc.) have more time to study the problem and come up with solutions.
A good illustration of how these “social distancing” measures work can be seen in this Washington Post article on and online simulation of how viruses spread. Social distancing in these circumstances, given the current state of our medical knowledge, is an act of love.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not to be defined by a spirit of fear – for us, as I said in my sermon last Sunday, neither survival nor some nebulous “quality of life” are our “bottom line”. As followers of Jesus Christ, living with faith in the future and present reality of His resurrection life, we are to be defined, solely and completely, by love.
Our Prime Minister has been reassuring us that “things will get better”. It seems to me more likely that things will get significantly worse before they get better. I think it likely that, barring some miraculous developments, we will see more service cancellations in the future. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we also have some experience with miraculous developments, and, as Lewis’ Prince Rilian says in The Silver Chair, “Courage, friends. Whether we live or die, Aslan will be our good lord.”
As Vladyka Irénée implies in his letter and has pointed out more explicitly elsewhere, the suspension of services should not mean any slackening in our duty, as members of the body of Christ, to pray – for one another and for the whole world. As has been aptly said, we do not know what the future holds. We do, however, know Who holds the future. And He is good, even when we – and circumstances around us – are not.
Love in Christ,