Serving Neighbours and Speaking with Friends
Ways to serve neighbours and speak with friends in the coronavirus crisis
In the midst of the global Coronavirus crisis, we have a unique opportunity to be Gospel people: to act lovingly, speak graciously, and live humbly for the common good of all people. In addition to taking the necessary precautions to limit virus transmission, which protects the most vulnerable people in society, here are steps you can take to serve neighbours and speak with friends in this time of great anxiety and isolation:
Become an NHS Volunteer Responder
The NHS urgently needs an 'army' of volunteers who can support the 1.5m people in England who are at most risk from the virus to stay well. See www.goodsamapp.org/NHS for details and to register.
Supporting the vulnerable
JPIT (The Joint Public Issues Team) have produced resources on the homeless and those struggling on Universal Credit during the coronavirus crisis. See all their posts relating to the pandemic at www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/category/covid-19/
JPIT wants to hear from you if you know of people falling through the net. They also want to know about good projects that are providing support to vulnerable people during this crisis. You can email them with any information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach out to your community to see if they have already started a WhatsApp or text group that you can join. If not, why not check if that is something that would be right for your neighbourhood, or whether a group of you could. If there isn’t anything set up and you’re healthy, pray about taking the initiative to start a means of virtual connection in your neighbourhood.
Obviously we’d ask you to be mindful of safeguarding considerations which can be found here.
People who rely on extra support to receive essential food and resources may find the next few months particularly challenging.
The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have produced a simple guide on how you can support foodbanks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trussell Trust has also issued guidance on how churches can support volunteer supported charities.
Be open to sharing honest, deep, vulnerable conversation (online or over the phone only at the moment) with people. Many people are understandably extremely anxious and would welcome a chance to share and confide via phone, email, or social media. Sometimes these conversations will lead to wondering about God, faith, and/or suffering and may bring up difficult questions.
For Christians, suffering is a reality in this world, and we believe that God is good even in the face of it. This is because we have met and trust Jesus, who even as the Son of God experienced anxiety, fear, suffering, and death before he was raised to new life. Jesus shows us that God is present even in the midst of suffering now.
If you’re talking with someone who is suffering or worried about the coronavirus, take time first of all simply to listen and to be with them in that place.
It’s important to avoid giving simplistic answers as to why this is taking place or giving false reassurance that we can somehow avoid all suffering. Avoid messages that suggest in any way that taking precautions that help keep people safe is "letting fear win". Avoid messages that faith in God will protect people from anxiety and pain. Avoid messages that suggest in any way that the pain and anxiety someone is experiencing is their fault or the result of someone's sin.
Instead, choose messages that seek to embody the love and presence of God. Choose messages that assure people that we can go through this together in grace and care for each other along the way. Choose messages that name that God is with us, especially in times of great fear.
Offer to pray for people and ask if they need practical help. If they do need help – such as with shopping or with collecting prescriptions – make sure to follow through, even if it’s by connecting them with a church or group that is able to help out. And continue to pray, since we know that the God of all comfort is for them too. Pray for a "peace that transcends understanding". Pray for a felt sense that suffering will not have the final word and that somehow, finally, "all shall be well". Pray for a personal experience of God's presence even in the face of great suffering.