Life in the midst of a global pandemic
Few planned for the kind of year that 2020 is turning out to be. Long anticipated and pegged as a milestone in many ways, a marker for years for many leaders and decision makers in casting vision and making strategic plans, it has quickly become a defining period in modern history, even as all that this entails is still largely unknown. The emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic has radically, even traumatically, altered and upended life as we have known it.
Not many treasured characteristics of life remain unopposed. Our health, our finances, proximity in relationships, and even our very ability to move around freely are suddenly, simultaneously, challenged. Significantly, our ability to gather physically for worship and fellowship as people of faith, which would have been a sure source of encouragement and comfort in a jarring and uncertain time, has been suspended.
What strikes me most is that as Christ followers, a global community marked by His Spirit, God’s heart and mind are with us. He knew this season would come, and He has been quietly preparing us for it. He is intent on carrying out His purposes, which have not changed, and on delivering all He has promised—first in and through our lives, and then outward to all whom He still wants to reach with His love and mercy. We may feel unprepared for the barrage of sudden changes we have never experienced before, but we are exactly where God wants us to be at this time. Whatever we may feel we lack, He wants to come alongside and supply—at our invitation. We have the foundation we need to begin to move forward in the confidence and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His mission—bringing Canada and the world to faith in Jesus Christ during a chaotic time. The message of the gospel and the urgency of our mandate to give people hope for their lives and for their future are exactly what is needed in this moment.
While this experience of a global health threat—and an involuntary interruption of church gatherings—is new in our lifetimes, it’s not unprecedented. While there are differences between the 1918-1919 pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic’s characteristics and impact to date, there are some similarities, including forced school and business shutdowns, mandatory quarantines, and a suspension of church services. Daniel D. Isgrigg, an associate professor and director of the Holy Spirit Research Center at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and an ordained Assemblies of God minister, explored how Pentecostals—just entering the beginnings of the Pentecostal era—responded to the pandemic they faced at that time. He noted their earnest desire to comply with health department directives to keep their congregations safe, their faith and self-sacrifice in praying and meeting the needs of the sick in spite of deadly personal risk, and their reliance on God and on prayer to face the greatest trial of their time.
We are now presented with the same opportunities: to make honouring social distancing guidelines a priority; to make ourselves available to be the hands and feet of Jesus in spiritual and practical ways to those most in need; and to deepen our reliance on prayer, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. Stories have already emerged of how pastors, leaders and congregational members throughout our Fellowship have risen to this occasion. Churches have made the transition to online or electronic delivery of their sermons so people can still worship together in spirit and hear God’s Word. Many in our Pentecostal family are serving as nurses, doctors, first responders and front-line workers. Many families have been impacted by job loss, illness, and even death. Our office collectively continues to pray for all of you daily.
Most of the content for this issue of testimony/Enrich was sought before the reality of the pandemic emerged, but each writer’s perspective and valued contribution still hold great encouragement and applicable truth for our current season. That is the beauty of the Spirit’s work in us.
Our call has not changed. Let’s move forward together, victorious in it.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.