There must be many who are at a loss from the weariness of self-restraint due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Since last year, we have been tossed about by the unknown virus called COVID-19, and churches within the Diocese of Chubu have been repeating suspension and resumption of their public worships following the judgment standard declared by the national and local government. Despite wondering if this was the right decision and with much pain in our hearts, we took thorough preventive measures by limiting the number of people, listening hymns only to the sound of the organ, and live streaming to somehow keep our worship and religious life. Unfortunately, this unstable condition will most likely continue for another few years and we may become despondent, but we hope to keep moving forward without losing hope and believing there are God’s will and blessings that are beyond human understanding.
The other day, it suddenly hit me looking at my colleague who was worrying “if there was somehow a way to at least put subtitles in the church live streaming” for the hearing impaired. I strongly realized that, as the necessity of creating a good internet environment at church becomes unavoidable similar to society, we had solely been preoccupied by its convenience and the necessity of spreading it, and the most important attitude of giving consideration to those who are unable to deal with the situation due to various reasons was insufficient. Many people have no choice but to give up even if they want to participate in the live streaming or refrain from worship because of their age or underlying illness even if church worship resumes. It is essential to improve the internet environment for post-pandemic mission, but I feel it is more important to thoughtfully respond to those who are confused by the sudden changes.
According to the Gospel of Mark, finishing his ministry in Galilee, Jesus along with his disciples headed to Jerusalem where the crowd became larger as the days went by. In the final phase of the journey, as they were setting off from Jericho onto Jerusalem, a blind man, Bartimaeus, shouted “have mercy on me!” As the people rebuked the man, Jesus was the only one who stopped, and he demonstrated his work of healing. (Mark 10:46～) As described, Jesus was a person who put the presence of one single person before his own accomplishment. He treasured the presence of the individual, especially the socially vulnerable, and tried to walk together with those who were suffering and grieving.
I have been attending various meetings lately and feel that negative opinions tend to dominate due to the uncertainty of the future. It has been pointed out that the call for “physical (social) distancing” has led to disconnection between people and promotes separation and disparity. However, because it is a time of anxiety, we must not forget that we have been given the blessing and the power from God to pray for each other. By thinking about the presence of each person whom we have not been able to see in person for a while and praying more than ever, we will be encouraged to form a deeper and richer community. For that, I feel that the church is willing to continue asking what they can do specifically.
Revd Timothy Hirozumi Doi