Dr. Barry C. Johnson
As we continue to suffer through this pandemic, we sadly face the reality that we are losing and have lost members of our church families to the appearance of the death angel. While we realize that members are being “called Home” due to advanced age and other more common medical issues, we are also witnessing deaths that are attributable to the dreaded Coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Even losing a loved one under what may be considered normal circumstances is quite painful. Parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, and aunts and uncles comprise a healthy family structure that has been an integral part of our lives. Our older family members provided instruction, care, and support that helped to mold us into the decent and responsible persons we are today. When we were young, these older members seemed indestructible. However, the passing of time brings on the aging process, which reduces strong men and women to mere shells of their former selves; and we find ourselves taking care of the very ones who used to take care of us.
Nonetheless, the culmination of a close-knit family creates an emotional bond with our loved ones that is unbreakable. We do not want to see them go, but in many situations realize that we more so do not want to see them suffer. Therefore, the faithful that trust the Lord realize that He knows best and that commending our loved ones to His eternal care is honorable. As a pastor, one observation I have noticed is that people pray to the Lord to heal, fix, or restore loved ones, but are sometimes disappointed when it seems that He did not hear their prayer – when in fact, He did. By taking our loved ones to be with Him, parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, and aunts and uncles are forever healed! We feel and react to the loss of loved ones when they die under “normal” conditions, but the loss of family and friends due to COVID-19 is devasting.
Under any circumstances, we grieve the loss of a loved one; so, why is a loss to COVID-19 so devasting? My observation is that many continue to believe that this virus will only affect “others,” that it is not real – or the original sin (although most people do not subscribe to this) – that this disease will not harm black people. Although most people have embraced the wearing of masks, there are many “church folks” that do not believe it is necessary. The thought is that this pandemic is not supposed to hurt church people or our own family members; this pandemic will be temporary and because it will be short-lived, we will surely not be affected. We know that we will one day face the death angel; but to Covid-19? – that is unacceptable. It does not seem real; and in the fog of mourning, a death from COVID-19 is almost an insult!
The conducting of funerals during a pandemic can be seen as part of that insult, as we are limited to the number of attendees that would normally “pack” the church, especially for an esteemed member. That the normal large family gatherings have been reduced would almost smack of disrespect under normal times. Furthermore, the streaming of services through Facebook or other mediums seems totally impersonal and cold; and the lack of a choir and other entities that contribute to the aura of the normal homegoing has reduced the celebration from a symphony to a chamber piece. Moreover, the fact that many choose to attend the wake but not the actual service seems like abandonment. Then again, this is the zeitgeist, or the sign of the times, whose future I cannot predict.
With this dour presentation, one might ask, “Where is God?” My faith encourages me to uplift those who may be struggling with the aforementioned issues. I commend to you His care and His protection, even in “times like these” – especially, in times like these! Believers continue to be covered by the blood of Jesus, and He will remove this pandemic from our lives in His time. He knows and realizes our sorrow and the toll that it is taking on our lives. Continue to trust Him because the reality is that we have no one but the Lord who is able to erase this scourge from our lives. In your prayers, continue to ask God to “Heal the Land,” in accordance with 2 Chronicles 7:14: “… and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Amen.
Next month, we will continue to examine best practices in anticipation of reentering the church. We will return to Choir Festivals, Special Concerts, and the need for special collaborations at a later date.