117 East Burke Street, Martinsburg WV

Overcoming fear through community

One church joining faith and action

Overcoming fear through community

We live in dangerous times and not just from the risk of becoming ill, but also from the feelings we may be harboring about our neighbors locally, nationally and globally.

In times of prolonged crisis and stress, annoyance can quickly boil over into anger. And without a visible presence to attack, our frustrations with COVID-19 can spill out onto other people.

It’s always easy to demonize others, and that’s a convenient way to justify talking about them or treating them like they are less deserving of love and respect than they really are.

We are all God’s children, and God wants us all to be happy. With a few notable and notorious exceptions, we all want the same thing for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Yet, the deadly pandemic we find ourselves in now is like slow torture. The drip, drip, drip of bad news, scary projections and mounting death tolls with no end in sight is sometimes more than we can take. We lash out at those outside our artificially tightened circle.

We see images of unmasked protestors with firearms screaming at police about individual freedom while brave health care providers stand in counter-protest.

We hear scurrilous claims of covert conspiracies and xenophobic efforts to label this virus by country of origin.

We react to politicians and TV hucksters attempting to seize the schadenfraude (a German word meaning “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune”) to score political points or make a quick buck.

These are blots of darkness that seem to overwhelm the light we want for our lives.

Like ants trapped in a jar, we feel a strong urge to turn on each other in our mounting frustration and fear. Or we turn inward, grow quiet and silently pray for the chaos to pass over our heads.

But in Christ, who seeks to live in our hearts, we can know that the jar isn’t real, there is no enemy and there’s no need to strike out in panic or anger. Negativity divides us. The spirit of Christ unites. Isaiah 43:1 says, “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” The phrase “fear not” appears more than 80 times in the King James Bible.

As for those who seek political or monetary gain during the crisis, the Bible has advice about them too: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9)

We live in an age of mass communication and enjoy more channels of connectivity than any other generation before us. We have at our fingertips the ability to erase distance, pass through boundaries of space and make connection. These are gifts God has given us through the science born of minds divinely driven and inspired.

Let’s use them to move our hearts and minds outside this lockdown. Let’s see the light in each other’s eyes and hear it in each other’s voices again as best we can. Let’s use our phones and computers to re-ignite and enjoy the community that lifted our souls in better days. Even when gatherings may be unwise, the Church can thrive in the electronic world.

AT&T’s slogan in the 1980s was: “Reach out and touch someone.” Social distancing precludes a physical hug, but we have so many other ways to feel each other’s warmth, humor and support – let’s stay in touch.

Let us know what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling and what’s getting you through these times. Christ Reformed United Church of Christ contact details are below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christreformeducc/?ref=bookmarks
Telephone number: Pastor Tom Hartshorn (304) 279-7332.
Email: ucctom@gmail.com or crcmartinsburg@gmail.com

Bob Gough is the chairman of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ’s Web Committee.