Greetings to you, friends in The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
I’ve been feeling tired this week. Not tired in a physical sense, as I’m still getting enough sleep and exercise, and I’m eating well. But I’m tired of the COVID-19 pandemic. I miss seeing my congregation, and hugging them, and sharing food together, and all the other things we used to enjoy before this terrible plague began. And I’m tired of worrying—about the ones that are sick, and the ones that are grieving, the ones that are on the front lines, and the ones that are not staying as connected to the church community.
I wonder if you’re feeling tired too. Tired of preaching to a camera or trying to worship in your living room. Tired of balancing work and home-schooling your kids. Tired of being alone. Tired of being scared. Tired of waiting and hoping and longing to be able to make plans again.
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an information session on COVID-19 vaccination and public health measures with Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. The Privy Council asked the Canadian Council of Churches to share the invitation with local congregational and parish leaders across Canada, acknowledging the important role that faith communities are playing in supporting the spiritual, mental and physical health of Canadians across the country during this difficult time.
Dr. Tam took time to share with us about the remarkable development and approval of the two vaccines that are being administered in Canada to the most vulnerable populations first, and hopefully to all Canadians by September 2021. The incoming supply requires a phased approach, and recent delays are an additional challenge, but she assured us that the doses will arrive, and the vaccines will be effective. And my favourite line (that I’ve heard her say on the news as well) was that “This pandemic WILL come to an end.” And she is hopeful for the year ahead.
It makes me think of the Judean exiles in Babylon. Towards the end of nearly 60 years in captivity, in 539 BCE Cyrus captures the Babylonian Empire and suddenly the hope of return to Judea is real. Cyrus would allow the captives to return to their original homelands, and for the Judeans, this was nothing less than a miracle from God.
But even as they receive this good news, it becomes clear that the people have doubts and concerns. There is a long way to go to make that journey home again. And what will they find when they get there? What new challenges will they face? Undoubtedly, things won’t just be the way they once were. Second Isaiah discerns that the people doubt whether God is still with them. And even if God is there, they wonder if God has any more plans for them.
I wonder if that description resembles your community at this time.
Of course, you may have very specific concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. If that is the case, good information on the development, testing and ongoing monitoring of the vaccines is available on the Canada.ca website under Coronavirus . Any question you may have is likely answered there, and you are encouraged to share the information with your community.
Or maybe you’re worried about how long the roll-out is going to take. Based on my age group and low risk factors, I likely won’t get vaccinated until the summer, but I’ll be ready when my turn arrives. And in the meantime, I’m rejoicing every time I hear about a healthcare worker, or a long-term care resident, or an elderly congregation member who has received the shot. I’m hearing lots of those stories already!
Or perhaps it’s the future of the church that has your stomach tied in knots these days. Will your congregation survive the economic impacts of the pandemic? Will folks get out of the habit of coming to church and just not come back? You’ve probably realized that this pandemic will have permanent impacts on our churches and ministries, and that when it’s finally over we won’t just be going back to where we were before it started. We will be in a new normal that is as yet unknown.
I’m praying that the new normal won’t just be a battered and tired remnant of what once was. But that it will be a vibrant, hopeful and innovative church that has been renewed and strengthened for God’s mission in the world. My hope is that we will take what we have been learning in the last year about community, pastoral care, worship, mission, justice, and even technology, and let God guide us into a new normal that is moving towards the Reign of God that is coming.
I don’t believe it’s up to you and me alone to build it either, because God has not abandoned us. God has not been overcome by a virus. As Second Isaiah asked the tired and doubting exiles, I ask you also:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”
If you’re feeling tired right now, you’re certainly not alone. They’ve even given this kind of weariness a name—Covid Fatigue. But as Christians, we know the ultimate source of our strength, our hope and our power to endure. It is God alone who will raise us up to continue this journey.
Dr. Tam humbly asked faith communities to continue to support the people of Canada in three ways: First, by helping to inform others about the virus and the vaccines, and sharing credible information from public health sources; Second, by staying vigilant in our precautions including hand hygiene, physical distancing, wearing masks, staying home when sick and following the current guidelines of local health authorities; and finally, by maintaining social, emotional and spiritual closeness during this time when physical closeness is not possible, as well as encouraging those who are struggling to reach out.
Thank you for all the ways that you are already fulfilling these requests in the communities where you live and serve. May God, who does not faint or grow weary, renew your strength in the months ahead.
—The Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada