If you are sick and tired of all the stress, isolation, restrictions and cautions of the COVID crisis, raise your hands. (Me! Me!) I most certainly am, and all of the folks in my small United Church of Christ congregation in suburban Chicago are, too.
This is not to say that our congregation has remained untouched by this ongoing crisis. Sadly, several extended members of the families in our congregation have died. A number of members and friends have had the virus. Yet – there is an increasing feeling in my small congregation of mostly seniors that they are done with this continuing crisis. Done, meaning, done with. Tired of. They want everything to go back to some worldwide pre-set, pre-2020, Like, in some totally massive multi-player video game.
Thankfully, this northeast section of Illinois has a higher vaccination rate per capita than some other parts of the country. Yes, the Chicago area hospitals and care centers are still feeling the effects of the COVID crisis, but not nearly as strongly as other states.
Before becoming a small church pastor, I worked as a chaplain in Chicago-area hospitals and care centers. I have a great respect for medical workers, especially with the stress, heightened anxiety and burn-out they experienced in these last eighteen months. And yes, the numbers are rising again, especially in those areas where fewer people per capita have been vaccinated against COVID. What is more worrying, the Delta variant has proven to be much more contagious than the Alpha COVID virus.
As so many across the country know by now, the vaccine, masks, social distancing, and other matter-of-fact cautions have been turned into political footballs over these eighteen months. Shrill voices on both sides of the aisle trumpet their strident opinions. Both the “red team” and the “blue team” have had their proponents and their detractors, for many months. Except – the tide seems to be turning, in the case of certain hot spots across the country.
In Jacksonville, Florida, a large church has counted six deaths from COVID (the Delta variant) in the hospital in the last ten days. More than a dozen members are hospitalized. Plus, many more are quite sick, at home. These deaths are those of young, previously-healthy people. This church is now holding a large vaccination event this coming weekend.  The fear, anxiety and stress of this continued health crisis, heightened by the Delta variant, has now galvanized many people who were previously on the fence about getting vaccinated.
I have the greatest respect for medical professionals who recommend that their patients do not get the vaccine. However, for those who can, I would strongly recommend that they consider the vaccine. I am pastor to a congregation of mostly elderly church members, many in fragile health. I could not even imagine my getting COVID and passing it along to anyone in the congregation. What is more, a member of my extended family is currently immuno-suppressed. Again, I could not bear the guilt of passing along COVID to anyone in fragile health.
Are you afraid, anxious, grieving and stressed out, yet? I could become paralyzed by fear, anxiety and stress, if I really thought about it. Thank God, I know that Jesus is able to carry me through. He is walking with me – and you – through the dark valleys, and will continue, no matter what. That is what I continue to tell my congregation. Even though the way ahead is dark, twisty and unknown, Jesus remains right by our sides.
What a comfort. What an encouragement. Thank You, Jesus.
Let us pray. (from the Taizé tradition)
May Your peace shine among us, and Your love set us free, Lord we pray.
O Christ, You have taken our weaknesses upon Yourself and taken charge of our illnesses; support those who are going through trials…
We entrust to You our families and friends, all who have asked for our prayers and who pray for us…
For our country, our region, our town, that the believers there may be witnesses to truth and creators of unity, Lord we pray.
Bless us, Christ Jesus; in You alone our hearts find rest and peace. Amen.
The Rev. Elizabeth Jones
Elizabeth is pastor at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church (UCC) in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, and is a member in the Federation of Christian Ministries. Elizabeth holds a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling in Illinois (certified by IAODAPCA), and is active in peacemaking and interfaith work, engaging the local community.
She blogs at “Pastor, Preacher, Pray-er” at wordpress.com. Her spiritual training enables her to bring encouragement, strength and comfort to persons in need.
Elizabeth’s family shares space with a petite cat (with a big personality) named Mary. Elizabeth loves reading, music, piano-playing, yoga, taking walks, baking, and messing around on the computer.
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