Many PYM Friends meetings are preparing for the possibility of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in their communities. Others have questions and and are starting to make plans. Pastoral care providers and meeting leadership in particular have a significant challenge.
As Friends, we will likely be called upon to develop new approaches and ways of responding to the pastoral care needs of meeting members and attenders. Helping those new to meeting, families with young children, teens and young adults and older Friends maintain their health while at the same time nurturing the vitality of the meeting will be the challenge. Finding innovative ways to provide loving pastoral care for each other during this crisis is the task ahead. The following queries may be considered to help your meeting prevent infection:
- What changes can be made to how we interact with each other in worship and business to reduce the spread of infection?
- What can we do now so that the meeting will know about and respond to requests for help and assistance, both pastoral and temporal, to persons sick and suffering as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19?
- What communication systems (e.g., phone trees, texting chains, email threads, etc.) can be put into place now for Friends that allow Friends to stay connected and responsive to the changing needs of the meeting community including exposure quarantining and food insecurity?
- What are creative ways that groups within the meeting, such as the youth, families and spiritual care committees can maintain connection and relationship?
- What are the essential functions of the meeting that need to be maintained even when many in the community are ill or government restrictions prohibit group public events? How will this happen?
Here are two more queries from Interfaith Philadelphia:
- How will you protect members of your community and visitors against implicit bias, hateful words or actions, knowing that people of Asian descent have been particularly targeted during this time? How will you keep in mind that it is often those with non-dominant identities who are often unfairly targeted, and further marginalized during moments of increased community fear?
- Who should be involved in decision-making for your congregation? Who should be consulted and informed? Who has the authority to make decisions?
Of course, promoting self-care and wellness during this crisis will be essential to the health of the meeting community. It is advised that Friends remember to get good rest, exercise and eat right despite the restrictions they may be experiencing. You can see the advices of other Quaker and religious groups and the CDC in this story.
We must also avoid feeling unduly anxious and emotionally overwhelmed:
- Regulating our exposure to media about the impact of the pandemic will be an important practice;
- Regularly checking in with family and F/friends will help us avoid feeling isolated and lonely;
- Offering prayers and loving thoughts to those suffering will keep our faith vibrant and engaged with Spirit;
- Holding one another in the Light via social media and other online Quaker platforms will strengthen our faith, and;
- Staying connection through pym.org and your meetings webpage to the wider community will reinforce our resolve to “walk cheerfully” despite the darkness and turmoil around us.
In all of these ways, we will witness to our faith in the life of our meeting community and its healing effects during times of trouble and distress.
George Schaefer, Care & Aging Coordinator