The coronavirus, COVID-19 has effectively closed down our world. Gatherings have been banned across the world, including churches and other Christian organizational meetings. Most churches have moved across to the digital or online space and are broadcasting church services from home.
Carrington York, in her article titled “Churches Face Challenges Around Virtual Transition,” notes that many “churches become a home away from home” for their congregants. However, as stated earlier in this discussion, churches are trying to find their place in the new normal or the digital age.
COVID-19: Setting the scene
Before we consider the impact of the various lockdown or stay-at-home orders on the global population, let’s set the scene by taking a brief look at the coronavirus and its impact on the world as we know it.
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19 was first seen in Wuhan, China in the last days of 2019. It first presented as a pneumonia-like illness that was spreading rapidly throughout Wuhan. It was only early January 2020 that this illness was attributed to COVID-19. Five months down the line, it has swept across the globe, resulting in over 5.1 million infections and 331 531 deaths worldwide.
Not much is known about the virus’s behavior and how to control its spread. What is globally accepted, and endorsed by the World Health Organization, is that one of the only ways to slow the infection rate down and work towards eradicating the virus, is social distancing or social isolation.
Thus, the world’s economy has come to a halt resulting in the loss of more than $1 trillion (USD) during 2020. All non-essential businesses have closed, and many employees have been furloughed or laid off. The latest statistics quoted by the Guardian website show that 33 million US residents have applied for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began in the USA.
The good news is that some countries like Germany, Spain, and Italy, as well as several US states, are gradually tiptoeing out of the lockdown conditions, opening up their economies while hoping to prevent a second wave of infections that will cause these countries to lockdown their populations again.
The impact of COVID-19 on society as a whole
Research starting to show that the lockdown or stay-at-home orders are resulting in anxiety and fear in many people. And, these feelings are amplified in people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
Humans are social creatures. We need to meet face-to-face with other people. And, while digital communications between parishioners and the pastorate as well as the livestreaming church services, are going a long way towards dealing with the emotional and mental health consequences of social distancing, it is still not the same as physical contact or communications between people.
Mike Addelman noted in his article titled “COVID-19 social distancing having significant impacts on mental health, study shows,” that researchers at The University of Manchester and Swansea University have identified the fact that “social distancing and isolation is having significant impacts on people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.”
Christian counseling: The viable alternative
Thus, even though these extremely challenging times are impacting everyone, Christians or churchgoers should not despair. Help is at hand; God is a healer. And, for practical help and advice, there is additional help available in the form of Christian counseling.
Let’s expand on this point by considering the following scenario:
Joy battles with PTSD and also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She is an active church member, spending several days a week attending church functions and volunteering with several of the church’s community outreach programs. The lockdown has forced her to stay at home; thereby, exacerbating her symptoms and leaving her feeling alone and isolated.
What should Joy do? It is clear that she cannot ignore the status quo. She must implement measures to reduce the negative impact of the lockdown on her life. And, she must find her raison d’etre for living, or the reason for existence so that she can live a meaningful life despite the extremely challenging conditions, she finds herself in.
Here are a few of the most important mechanisms she needs to implement to reverse the adverse side effects of PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
- Connect with her church family using digital or online communication tools. This connection must include attending live stream church services, weekly virtual bible study sessions, as well as organizing or attending virtual coffee dates with friends.
- Seek the support of a Christian counselor to learn new coping skills to manage the PTSD and GAD in these challenging times.
- Start a creative hobby like gardening, knitting, painting, or baking. COVID-19 has increased the number of people without food, clothing, or shelter. Therefore, Joy can use her talents to make products to assist these people without having direct contact with other people.
As reiterated above, life is about finding meaning in challenging times. And, as the poet John Donne stated: “No man is an island entire of itself;” consequently, it is vital to keep the person-to-person connections alive, even if it can only be via digital platforms.