These are days of information overload. There is so much news to follow! Local, regional, national, international, from this part of the country and from that part of the world.
It is hard to cope with how much news there is, and with how overwhelming it feels. News stories with an emotional catch lead me to tears, regularly and often. Some days I discipline myself to only read the news morning and evening. Other days I keep checking my news apps all day long. Occasionally I get caught up in some kind of engaging activity at home, and I forget about the news completely.
My work with Mennonite World Conference (MWC) means that I want to pay attention to the impact of the lockdowns in India, the election violence in Malawi and the politics in Brazil. We have Anabaptist church members in each of these countries, and the news matters.
But it is a big world! MWC has member churches in 58 countries around the world. I walk alongside a network of MWC regional representatives who live in 12 different countries. I communicate by email with the leaders of all 107 national member churches. I want to know what is happening in each of their contexts in order to communicate effectively, and provide support and encouragement relevant to their contexts.
But it is overwhelming. Sometimes our world is just too big. Sometimes just our country is too big! There is too much to pay attention to, with the context being different everywhere. There is COVID-19 everywhere. Its impact on communities and countries that have far fewer resources than I do is unimaginably scary. I know just enough to know about inadequate health-care systems, population density and the struggle for daily sustenance.
But I believe God expects us to care about the church beyond our local congregation. I believe God has given us diversity as a gift. Our understanding of God within our own cultural and congregational context is too small. We can only begin to understand the depth and breadth of the love of God when we see God at work in communities very different from our own. We need our local congregation for nurture and challenge. We need the church beyond our local congregation for nurture and challenge, for spiritual growth. Regional church. National church. Church around the world.
These are my tools for coping with a whole world of news, and connecting in meaningful ways with church leaders across the street and around the world:
- I choose to read/follow news sources that include tidbits of news from every continent and across Canada every day.
- I intentionally use social media to connect in a more personal way with church people far from my own community.
- I visualize the people I am connecting with, in their own context, in every email and message I send to them.
I can’t pray as I would like, by name, for all the people and places that I connect with around the world. Instead, I use my daily news, my social media connections, and my emails to pause for a moment here and there, to simply “hold up” to God that place or that person. This prayer practice slows me down, and encourages me to give my fears and anxieties to God. I like the practice of visualizing people being held by God.
I need more discipline and more practice as I read the news and I pray. These pandemic days give me plenty of opportunity!
Arli Klassen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a member of First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., and loves to hold the local and the global as close together as possible.