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The Coronavirus Diaries: God is in Charge

Wednesday December 9 2020

Jessie Fubara-Manuel is a PhD Student based at New College, University of Edinburgh, from the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.

"Coronavirus is not in charge of this world; God is in charge!”

I heard that from a recorded sermon of St John’s Church of Scotland, Carluke. I remember saying a very loud “Amen” in my characteristic African-Nigerian spirituality. But anyone who thought coronavirus was in charge would not be blamed. Everything has seemed to revolve around it.

In January 2020, I had returned from my PhD fieldwork, eager and enthusiastic for another academic semester. I prepared a work-plan which even my supervisor felt was ambitious. But I was determined to work hard – write my PhD thesis, do some tutoring, help plan a conference and still have time for church and community engagements. I also registered to attend and present papers at academic conferences locally and internationally. I was optimistic that everything would work out as planned. And it was working out well until coronavirus struck.

Every piece of news was about the virus. One after the other, the conferences got cancelled. The numbers began to rise, numbers that were people infected or lost to the virus. Countries began to lock down. Economic, political, and social events came to a standstill. Every conversation, every sermon, every prayer, was suddenly about the virus. It seemed like coronavirus was in charge.

I watched as my ambitious deadlines flew by me like a non-stop long distant train. I was not ill, but every academic effort took thrice the effort and my energy level was down to its lowest ebb. As an international student, I live actively in two worlds – Scotland and Nigeria. Although I had the good fortune of staying with loving family here in Scotland during the lockdown, I worried endlessly about my immediate family and elderly parents in Nigeria.

Suddenly, in the place of despair, those words hit me: “God is still in charge of this world”.

It gave me renewed perspectives and a new way of seeing things. Around me were people doing amazingly kind and courageous things. I watched as a family member continued as healthcare worker each day, knowing the risks but determined to help. I noticed how the foodbanks were filled up with donations. People with disabilities who met virtually and for the first time felt the world was getting a little understanding of what they have been experiencing with isolation. The Breakfast Kitchen at South Leith Parish continued all through the lockdown providing hot meals for our neighbours.

Back in Nigeria, individuals and churches were coming together to provide aid and food to persons in need. A new sense of neighbourliness, of care and of support was springing up everywhere. God was present in Jesus Christ, amid the pain, death, and grief.

The University of Edinburgh devised new ways of teaching and providing support for students amidst the pandemic. Classes, supervision meetings, seminars went into hybrid or totally online modes. Conferences opened virtually enabling more attendance from the comfort of homes. I found my energy returning to me. I began to write again. I participated in the University of Edinburgh Three Minutes Thesis Competition and emerged the overall winner. I revised my work plan and made more realistic targets.

These are still uncertain times. The pandemic is not over. We are still physically distancing, and everything is still precarious. But a new way of thinking is also in place; a new perspective of being, of living, learning, and of caring. Christmas is here reminding us of the gift of Jesus who comes in the spirit of love, hope, and peace. Coronavirus is not in charge of this world; God is in charge.

Merry Christmas. Stay safe, stay well.


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

Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
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'