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The Coronavirus Diaries: The Strength of Our Connectedness

Wednesday October 7 2020

The Rev Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, of Guyana Presbyterian Church and CEO of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation, reflects on the changes brought about by the pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way we live, work and relate - propelling us into the age of virtual communication and new ways of being church.

On March 11, 2020, the people of Guyana were thrown into an abyss of panic, fear and confusion when the first case was publicised, of a 52-year-old woman who had travelled from New York for festivities and family celebrations. For us it was a double whammy as the news came upon us during a time of elections, chaos and political unrest.

People did what they knew best: panic shopping, stocking up on groceries, cooking galore and sharing recipes and photos of sumptuous meals. Families also turned to gardening, proudly showing off their homegrown produce. People also had to learn to do new things: teach their children, work from home and spend most of the time at home with family.

In the first month of the lockdown, I felt disoriented. My routine was thrown out of whack and I was anxious about family, church members and colleagues. With little control over the situation, I began to slowly exhale, letting go, and finally relaxing. 

God was giving everyone a respite from the busyness of agenda and the many tasks that fill up our lives. The earth was also having a rest. I enjoyed watching the return of scarlet ibis, gracing the northern Atlantic shores with their colourful beauty. The lockdown has benefitted birds, animals, flora and fauna, and also the sea and air, as human activity with its pollution and noise was significantly reduced.  

As we discern the signs of these times, we need to reflect on what God is saying to us regarding how we shall live.    

With Covid-19 regulations established by the Ministry of Health, my colleagues and I embarked on a transition plan for our health clinics to safeguard our service providers and clients. With our already weak health system in a precarious situation, we wanted to ensure women and vulnerable populations were served.  With the help of virtual means, we were able to ensure accessibility of essential sexual and reproductive health services to women, girls, LGBT persons, migrants and youth.

The pandemic brought on distress within the church community, especially that it came upon us during the season of Lent, a high season for churchgoers. We were despondent because we could not go to church but we also understood that to not gather physically was an expression of compassion and solidarity with each other.   

On March 22 we took a quick and nervous leap into the realm of virtual church via Zoom. Members were very happy to be connected and to practice what is essential – our worship life of gathering to praise God, celebrating our fellowship, and to cry and hope together. An unexpected benefit of our new worship configuration was that family and friends from other parts of the world were able to join us in Guyana! Virtual worship does not make us less church, rather, it embodies worship in new ways, with the gifts of modern technology, defying social distancing, to worship together as a gathered people of God, connecting with persons worldwide in an amazing way!

The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us about the importance of human solidarity and community.  We are also reminded in a powerful way of the strength of our interconnectedness, including the reality of our mutual vulnerability. It is clear that a Covid-19 problem next door is a concern for me. Covid-19 is everyone’s business. This reality firmly underlines the absolute necessity of strengthening our solidarity and witness for justice and equity that ‘all may have life in all its fullness’. (John 10:10)

Let us make it through these times together, and emerge from this pandemic as a stronger, wiser, healthier, and more faith-filled church and society. 

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'