The March 15, 2020, entry in our household calendar reads: “We started COVID-19 social distancing today.”
It’s been one year since the worldwide community began confronting the reality of the latest coronavirus. In the past twelve months, this pandemic has brought confusion, fear, anger, illness, death and more. No need for details—you know what I’m talking about.
Here is an invitation to focus on some of the good things this year brought, gifts we can be grateful for. Through the heavy curtains of loss and mourning humanity has faced, moments of beauty and goodness shone through. Here are a few God-given gifts of the past year:
Moments of serendipity. There were times when we saw glimpses of God’s goodness, even if we didn’t name the Divine Presence at that moment. We enjoyed four seasons in the outdoors, watched wildlife in urban backyards, found beauty in forests and at campsites, cultivated vegetables and tended houseplants. We snuggled with—and laughed at—our pets. Music, visual arts, dance, poetry and humour continued to inspire us in these times, despite the difficulties.
Problem solving. Facing new challenges, we harnessed our God-given creativity to work out good solutions. The scientific and medical communities developed new vaccines at record speed and are now working to make them available to all. Social agencies found new ways to minister to marginalized people in their communities. Parents, schools and students bravely launched into ways of making education happen safely.
In our congregational life, we pivoted activities to virtual platforms; pastors learned to set up cameras and preach via screens. Congregational leaders figured out how to communicate and to conduct church decision making. Caring teams offered pastoral care in new ways. The faith community found ways to continue learning together. Church musicians got creative in making music together safely. Occasionally, we even figured how to have fun together.
Human connections. Defying the danger of getting too close, we created virtual gatherings that helped build and maintain our relationships. We found safe ways to stay physically distanced but still connected with each other. Even if we couldn’t embrace our loved ones in person, we intentionally tried to stay in touch with them, aware of how isolation and stress have been hard on everyone’s mental well-being. We used technology to pray with siblings in the faith who live in other places. We’ve expressed our caring through social media venues and with the help of the trusty telephone and postal mail. Friends met around virtual campfires, ate meals together in front of Zoom screens, and took part in virtual film and book clubs.
Generosity. This was a time when we learned more about serious social and financial inequities that plague our world. Some of us spoke out about these injustices, and many of us were inspired to share with those in greater need. We donated through nationwide and international organizations, and we gave individually, in our own communities. We volunteered, even when the safety logistics got complicated. We made commitments to look beyond ourselves and to keep on expressing God’s love, humbly and generously.
Throughout the year, many stories have been told of how people experienced God’s presence, and of how they are expressing creativity, human connections, generosity and more. We proudly share some of those stories through this magazine.
Even as we think back on these reasons to celebrate, it’s easy to see that serious challenges remain. The coming year will offer many struggles and more unknowns. Yet, I join with the Apostle Paul in his expression of gratitude for the faith community. “My dear friends, we always have good reason to thank God for you, because your faith in God and your love for each other keep growing all the time” (II Thess. 1:3, CEV).
As the pandemic life continues to stretch us in the coming months, let’s keep finding ways to see and celebrate the gifts before us. Can you think of examples that inspire you? What do you want to celebrate? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or 490 Dutton Dr., Unit C5, Waterloo, ON N2L 6H7.