In a Time of Crisis
March 13, 2020
A long time ago, I took a class called Ministry in a Time of Crisis. Many concepts from that class stuck with me. In the last few days, two characteristics and two helpful responses to crisis have been particularly on my mind. There are other characteristics and responses but these keep coming back to me.
Two characteristics of crisis:
- rapid, unpredictable and unexpected change.
- deep uncertainty about the short-term and possibly long-term future.
With both of these we can feel overwhelmed, disoriented, out of control and deeply distressed or upset.
How about helpful responses? Obviously, some crises require immediate, fast responses – put the kitchen fire out, stop the bathtub from overflowing, do CPR if someone is needs it. I’m not really talking about those, but about two other helpful responses.
First, keep the same things that can be kept the same. Provide touchstones, routines, places of certainty in the midst of chaos. These help people gain strength and focus to cope with the uncertainties that are swirling around, and help reduce fear. This is why we will continue to offer worship this Sunday, March 15. We will sing, pray, read Scripture and hear a message. Around that we will make changes that make sense – available hand sanitizer, collect the offering in baskets at the door rather than passing plates, no sign in pads, no hand-holding.
Do you remember memorizing Bible verses? These become touchstones during fearful times: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1 “Remember, I am with you always.” Matthew 28:20. We can call these forth to calm us and bring us strength.
Our true touchstone is that God is sure and certain, always with us, and will guide us if we turn to and rely on God.
A second helpful response to crisis is to take one step at a time. When we are overwhelmed and afraid, it is easy to project a little or a long way into the future and become paralyzed or make rash decisions. There is a lot of this going on now, reacting to fears rather than thoughtfully planning for the future, taking a step at a time. When we project too far into the future we miss doing the helpful things for today. What do we need to do today? Perhaps even this morning, or in the next hour? Of course, we do need to think about the future but if we obsess over the “what ifs” and ignore the logical next step for today we expend unnecessary energy and contribute to the chaos.
Taking one step at a time is also a sign of reliance on God. God will show us the way, will help us by giving us clarity and direction and perhaps even wise leaders. God may even ask us to be those leaders, helping others with a step at a time responses.
By next week, we may make a decision to cancel live worship or other activities. Prayerfully, thoughtfully, with God’s guidance. Email me if you have questions or concerns. This Sunday, March 15, as part of our Cry of Our Hearts theme for Lent, we’ll look at Repentance and Grace.
Livestream worship is at 9:45 a.m. Use this link to view.