The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in Georgia for more than six months and, although there is talk of a vaccine and there seems to be some diminishing of the virus, these are still very tough times. They are particularly challenging for one’s mental and spiritual health.
My wife and I have looked at each other numerous times over these past months and said, “I don’t know how we’d be making it if we didn’t have each other.” We don’t mean these words as a reflection on singleness because we know many, many single persons of all ages who are doing just fine and probably better than many couples.
What I suspect is that many of us, married or single, young or old, are sorely affected by these past six months. There is hardly a decision, small or large, that doesn’t require extra thought. I recently heard a report on the shocking number of teenagers and young adults who have given thought to suicide these days.
I wonder how the religious community is responding to these challenges. Surely there must be an acknowledgement that persons of faith are potentially in crisis.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters just faced Rosh Hashanah with social distancing mandates in place, and with the added grief over the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a death that saddens many in our nation.
Many Christian congregations are still in very constricted worship modes or have not yet re-opened. Pastors who have decried the whole pandemic as a false narrative are in ICU or have even met their death. There are no Wednesday-night suppers or prayer meetings; Sunday School classes are still cancelled.
The support structure that brings us joy, friendship and hope seems to have vanished, the rituals of baptism, marriage, even death have been transformed and six months is a long time to try to replace or re-invent our healing, faith-giving web of relationships.
A quarter-page ad in the Wall Street Journal last week caught my eye. It was an ad from a consortium of 10,000 licensed therapists/counselors inviting those who are “feeling down” about job, relationships, sexuality or life in general to contact a certain website. The ad included a 10% discount on the first month’s counseling. Two pages later a headline and article dealt with this subject, “Is It OK to Reveal Your Depression to Your Boss?” Columnist Rachel Feintzeig noted the share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression ballooned in mid-July 2020 to 40.9%. A year ago, that figure was 11%.
So I simply wonder if your faith community is acknowledging this enormous need for spiritual and emotional support during these incredibly tough times. Every congregation has different strengths and resources; there will be no simple answer to this challenge. But even churches that are “back open” have many members facing incredible mental and spiritual challenges. Is your congregation addressing these enormous burdens? If not, when will you begin and who will initiate the effort?