It’s Kristin here, JustFaith Ministries Director of Programs. First, I’m sending a virtual, germ-free hug to each of you in the midst of this panicky week. (But seriously, pause reading and give yourself a hug!).
Secondly, during our staff meeting on Thursday, Susie, our Executive Director, led us in brainstorming creative ways to support you and our JustFaith community, amid COVID-19 anxiety. For many of us, our usual means of spiritual nourishment, from JustFaith small groups to Sunday worship, are being postponed or canceled. For this reason, the JFM staff is working on some new, creative ways to help sustain you if you’re stuck at home or feeling anxious. Here’s our first try…. Stay tuned for more!
6 tips for COVID-19 Spiritual and Emotional Preparedness
The CDC put out some fantastic preparedness tips around physical wellness — you should definitely read them! However, we thought you might enjoy some tips for emotional and spiritual preparedness as well.
- Prayer and Meditation: Consider trying out a new prayer or meditative practice. Maybe try lectio divina as you journey through the Psalms, either by yourself or with your family (if you have children, do a verse or two at a time, maybe starting with Psalm 23 with an easy-to-understand translation such as CEB). Or try out mindfulness meditation, which will help you to notice the Kingdom of God that is still at hand even in the COVID chaos. YouTube has zillions of guided meditations like this one you can try for free. Or better yet, if you become a member of the JustFaith Network, you’ll have access to our library of resources for prayer, meditation, and learning.
- Prepare your church. Clergy have a lot on their plates right now — help them implement preparedness measures to protect not only your congregation, but also the most vulnerable in your community. Wheaton College published an AMAZING manual… check it out here. This Sojourners article is fabulous as well.
- Find a creative third way, and keep living your life. When we’re in panic mode, we often think we have only two options: fight or flight, yes or no, violence or passivity. In this particular case, the two options seem to be: 1. carry on shaking hands and licking envelopes as if a pandemic isn’t happening, or 2. wall yourself up in your house and take baths in Lysol. In the spirit of Walter Wink (you might remember his article from JustFaith), let’s remember that there’s almost always a creative third way, that we are not limited to options 1 and 2. For example, your options may seem to be: cancel coffee with a friend, or take the risk and meet up anyway. But could you try “phone coffee” — making coffee in your own homes while catching up via phone or video chat? (A similar strategy could even work for your JustFaith group.) The point is, don’t put yourself and others at risk, but also don’t let COVID-19 keep you from fellowship and joy. Find a creative third option, and keep living your life.
- Move! There’s a giant misconception among Christians that God cares only about our souls, not our bodies — despite the fact that our entire religion exists because the Word became flesh to dwell among us! Cabin fever makes it hard to get off the couch, but exercise is proven to help fight off depression and plain old bad moods. As an alternative to the gym, search YouTube for workout videos. Regardless of your age or space confinements, you can rest assured that the internet has an exercise solution for you! A favorite here at the JFM office is Yoga with Adriene, who guides us through short, meditative “chair yoga” sessions.
- Train Your Brain. If you took our JustFaith program, you might remember that Matthew Desmond, citing The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, concludes: “Psychologists have shown that when self-preservation is pitted against empathy, empathy usually loses” (Evicted, p. 372). However, the word usually is key here. We can practice empathy and compassion now, so that if the going gets tough, we are more likely to act in a way that is in accordance with our values.
- Don’t press pause on your justice work! COVID-19 will likely have a disproportionate effect on people living in poverty who can’t work from home or pay for childcare. Over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, so school closures and layoffs will affect their ability to pay for rent or food. Also, environmental degradation is still another urgent public health concern: according to this article, air pollution kills more people than war, malaria, or cigarettes. Find creative ways to keep working for justice, even if you have to do it from home, as this work is just as important now as ever.
Lastly, below is a John O’Donohue poem for if you’re feeling scared or lonely. It’s called “For Loneliness.” (I recommend reading it aloud to yourself).
Love and light to each of you,
Kristin and the JustFaith Ministries team
When the light lessens,
Causing colors to lose their courage,
And your eyes fix on the empty distance
That can open on either side
Of the surest line
To make all that is
Familiar and near
Seem suddenly foreign,
When the music of talk
Breaks apart into noise
And you hear your heart louden
While the voices around you
Slow down to leaden echos
Into something stony and cold,
When the old ghosts come back
To feed on everywhere you felt sure,
Do not strengthen their hunger
By choosing fear;
Rather, decide to call on your heart
That it may grow clear and free
To welcome home your emptiness
That it may cleanse you
Like the clearest air
You could ever breathe.
Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears;
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you
The glimmer of springtime.