At the beginning of the pandemic, I thought it was only a temporary measure of coping with the change, like what had happened during SARS many years ago. I never thought this storm would last so long.
There were challenges from moving the ministry centre from the church to a virtual church, our home, online tools. Spiritually, I could feel the fear and anxiety around the congregation, including myself and my family. There was a sense of being driven out of the garden of Eden, where we were comfortable with our old church life model.
Switching most of our ministry (worship, Bible study, Sunday school, fellowship, etc) to an online model was like an Exodus journey, although changing is a must with spiritual guidance and support. From the COVID-19 Resource Hub to every email, phone call I asked for support, I am so grateful for the strong leadership from Bishop Susan and the diocesan office. I am also so grateful for my colleagues, friends, congregational members, and family members. We encouraged each other, walking together out of the slavery of old habits and adopting the new normal in our lives.
With the new lockdown and stay-at-home order, the pandemic is going on, and we are still wandering in the wildness of the spiritual journey. Still, I am becoming more faithful than before. For instance, I had such a different Christmas and New Year in my life for the first time. God is presenting more opportunities to people, more than any time. We can feel the strong drive of looking for spiritual support among the people who were so used to busy and mundane lives. There is a new horizon of growing ministries like many people saw the star when Jesus came to this world over two thousand years ago.
Driven out of the Garden of Eden, Exodus from a “slaved” place, and wandering in the wilderness with faith and hope: this has been my experience of pandemic ministry. The scripture has the words made to the flesh, and it never changes like the promises God made to his people – trust God, trust Jesus, and trust the Holy Spirit.
Garfield serves as the rector of St. Luke’s, Palermo and as the diocesan Chinese Anglican Missioner.