This past month was the first month, in over a year, that I was able to make an "in-person" pastoral visit to a church member in a hospital. Getting in to see her did have some challenges: I had to: 1. have my temperature taken; 2. wear a mask, 3. make sure there was only one visitor in the room at a time, and 4. restrict my visit to designated floors (some are still reserved for active covid-19 patients). Still, I was able to see "face to face" a lady who had undergone a serious colon surgery. I was able to be present with her, encourage her, and share in prayer with her. It was, in some ways, a small step but still a significant one and definitely a sign that our land is beginning to heal...
We can see the Healing of our Land in a variety of ways: Easter Sunday, at the church I serve, was a wonderful time of worship as many who have not been to church in over a year, returned for fellowship and praise. Beginning in April we opened our Sunday school and small group ministry once again. The attendance at both worship and study groups is smaller than what it was before the pandemic, but still it is a blessing to be able to gather once again. In the Sapulpa community (where I live) the "mask mandate" has been lifted and I am expecting that soon will be the case in Tulsa, as well. People are returning, in limited numbers, to sporting events, restaurants, and shopping malls. It has been a joy to enjoy, once again, watching my grandson's soccer games. Signs of healing are all around us. But, we are not out of the woods yet. If we are wise we will celebrate the healing that has begun but continue to be cautious in way in which we conduct our lives. In fact, I believe that this is especially a time for all to P.R.A.Y.:
P rayer - There are many who are still ill. There are many who are still recovering from the devastating effects of a covid-19 infection. There are many who are still vulnerable. We all need wisdom as to how to keep ourselves and others safe. In short, we need to pray.
R espect - It is a sad fact that our public safety has become a political "hot-potato." There continues to be strong feelings regarding the wearing of masks, vaccinations, social gatherings, and other covid-19 cautions. Two weeks ago I prayed for our local City Council as they wrestled with the decision to lift the community mask mandate. Over 30 police officers were present to make sure things didn't "get out of hand." Regardless of our views or beliefs regarding the recommendations of scientists and politicians, we need to respect that different people have different opinions and levels of comfort regarding strategies for safety.
A attention - We need to continue to pay attention to the distance we maintain from others and to our personal practices of hygiene (ie. hand washing). We need to pay attention to the group events we participate in and make sure they are truly "safe gatherings." This is not a time for paranoia, but it is a time for common sense practice. If we continue to pay attention to common sense measures of safety we can all do our part in bringing this season of our life to a close.
Y ield - I hope that this crisis, with which we have been dealing for over a year, is not wasted but that through it all we can yield ourselves in deeper ways to God who comforts, provides, strengthens, and leads us. What an opportunity "sheltering in place" has been for increasing our level of prayer, Bible reading, Holy letter writing, etc. What a time this has been for us to ask God to be at work in our life. Please know, the opportunity has not completely passed, there is still before us a wonderful opportunity to yield ourselves to God in new and deeper ways.
I am thankful for the healing that has come, and I am hopeful for the healing that is still to come. I am also prayerful that now, as a measure of healing has come, that we don't "blow it" by disregarding God or the strategies that have brought us to the brink of a new day. Rather, I pray that the crisis we have faced (and are still facing) will be one that ultimately brings us closer to God.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.