Handwashing, covering sneezes, and social distancing techniques abound. We recommend the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines. Meanwhile, our friends in Seattle and Italy tell us we should take steps now to prevent the spread of this virus before it gets out of hand. To that end, business as usual must be suspended for the immediate future, sometimes even when it seems we are overreacting. To wait until the virus has spread is to wait too long. The North Carolina Council of Churches will continue our work of advocating for justice and working toward peace, but we will do this by telecommuting and connecting remotely with our coalition partners.
In the midst of these hard choices there are values we hold dear in caring for one another, especially the most vulnerable among us. We know the very old, the very young, and the infirm must be protected. Our love for them dictates that we be absent from them for a time. This means, what is already a semi-isolating and lonely position for some older adults will become more so. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to imagine new ways of “being present.” Pick up the phone more often, send more frequent cards or letters, do some things to remind those we normally hug that our love for them remains strong.
We must also consider the myriad of people whose income will suffer over the coming weeks, most often those who can least afford to lose a day of work. Cancellation of the ACC Tournament alone cost workers untold dollars in lost wages. Wage loss will occur for workers at our colleges and universities who now have limited or no work until at least mid-April. Even as some schools pledge to pay workers and assign them to other tasks around campus, there are vast array of part-time workers, seasonal workers, and contract workers who will not be included in these plans. The ripple effect of these very necessary decisions will spread throughout our communities, especially in the service industry. While the federal government may offer some respite, we know it will not bridge the chasm for many, especially those who historically fall through the cracks.
The list of those in need goes on: parents who must juggle work and childcare as our schools temporarily close, healthcare workers who will be called on to give even more to our communities, uninsured and underinsured people who will be forced to make difficult decisions. Please pay attention to these people as they move among us.
As people of faith, we are equipped for the coming weeks. We worship a God of creative possibility, redeeming grace, and sustaining presence. With these principles we can project hope into the world.
Many of our denominations offer resources for sharing faith over fear. We offer some of them to you knowing that your own creativity will unite with others to extend grace and care wherever possible.