I am posting excerpts from pastoral letters written for the congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oviedo, Florida. These are offered with the prayerful hope that others might find perspective or encouragement in them.
We know that an idea has reached faddish territory when it begins to be mocked online. Apparently the idea that we are “in this together” has become something of a refrain, as ubiquitous as the frequently bandied comfort “thoughts and prayers.” This is something of a shame because one of the more stunning realities of a pandemic is the fact that it is, in fact, global. Where once the idea of “in it together” may have applied to a single town hit by a tornado, or a region or state impacted by a hurricane, now the word “all” is globally inclusive. That is hard to conceive.
That said, it is significant that while the “all” of “all in it together” is global, the “it” is quite local. While I may be unable to buy popcorn and you unable to buy toilet paper, in some parts of the world the pandemic makes it hard to buy food. Around the world the number of children receiving inadequate nutrition has spiked and in many areas that can mean death. I am unhappy because there is no baseball while, by contrast, my friend Steve was unable to see his mother as she lay dying in a nursing home.
And it need not be so dramatic. Some of us are enjoying the lack of a commute and the ability to work in our pajamas. Others, however, are under intense pressure adding to a heavy work load the stress of family compression and supervising home schooling for several children.
So clearly the “it” has different meanings for different ones of us.
I was reminded of this when I received an email from a Kenyan pastor supported by our church. After asking about our welfare, he reports “For us we’re doing ok, safe with my family and the congregation as well. But still things are terrible. We’re indoors, no services going on. Challenges of food and others are facing the common man. The government extended the curfew and lock down more 21 days again for the sake of safety but the number [of deaths, I presume] is increasing every day going higher and higher which is terrible.”
If we are in “it” together, I thought you should know that this pastor and his congregation is one of the “we” with us, and the “it” they are in may be more grim than ours.
And yet, he is praying for us, as is another pastor, this one from Uganda, who asked me last week to pass on to you this message: “Let them know that their brothers in Africa are praying for you all.”
They are in with prayer for us. May we be in with prayer for them. Let’s in this way “all” be “in it” together.