Ministry Realities in Light of COVID-19
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the reality of every aspect of our lives and our world. We see in our cities, towns, neighborhoods, and, in some cases, our families, that the pandemic is also affecting some people differently than others. The compelling realities in our communities of race, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religion, and sexual identity have impacted the health and safety of many people and communities even more intensely.
As we continue to lament social distancing and the many losses of this time of crisis, many of us are also seeking meaning and wondering what we can do. How is this time informing our lives individually, as a community, as a nation, and as a world? What do we need to be paying attention to? What do we not want to lose sight of? As co-creators with God, what solutions can we find, and what actions can we take? How can we follow and spread the light of Christ amid the hurts and neglects of this time? And how can we be sustained by the Holy Spirit as we seek to find hope and share ourselves and our love with one another with compassion.
It is clear to us that the realities of the time—the so-called “normal” time—before Coronavirus not only remain, but are greatly impacted by the added stresses and grief we are experiencing. We know that people who were struggling or suffering before, are in most cases struggling and suffering more amid Coronavirus.
At the same time, we are gaining deeper insight into these realities and why it matters even more to be formed by them and to act: loving one another, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of the earth and every human being.
This page is a beginning, a way for us to look at the realities of today through the lens of Coronavirus, so we can begin to understand what the current crisis is revealing, so we can cultivate hope and resiliency, and so we can discern what we are being called to do.
To explore this page, select the reality you wish to explore, then click on the boxes in that section:
People of color have disproportionately high rates of contraction and mortality for COVID-19.
High rates of contraction are due to the fact that a disproportionately high number of people of color are essential workers.
High rates of mortality are due to existing inequities in our healthcare system that prevent people of color from gaining equitable access to healthcare.
Locally and internationally, people of color are at higher risk due to economic disparities that make working from home and following social distancing guidelines into privileges that many do not have access to.
While it has shown a bright light on many areas of structural racism in our country, especially in our healthcare and economic systems, COVID-19 has not improved the reality of racism.
Yes. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing structures of racism resulting in irreversible suffering and loss of life, creating an additional layer of trauma for people of color. While we are past the initial shock of this pandemic, there will be continued suffering for folks of color if economic structures that limit job opportunities, access to paid time off, and supportive healthcare are not addressed.
Like the realities of racism that existed before COVID-19, clear instances of racism and its deadly effect on individual lives present an opportunity. This opportunity allows us to have our hearts broken open at the pain and suffering caused by poor decision-making, racist structures, and inequality. While these heartbreaking moments often motivate us to pursue meaningful change, they constitute another hurdle to overcome in this fight.
COVID-19 shows up front how deadly racism is. There are real, life-and-death consequences to the continued existence of racism in our hearts, structures, and economies. It also clearly shows how important good leadership is in a time of crisis; leadership that prioritizes and protects the life of every person, seeing none as expendable.
COVID-19 presents an opportunity for the Church to point directly to concrete facets of structural racism as real, imminent threats to the lives of people of color. COVID-19 takes much of our work around racial justice from the realm of theory to one of concrete action. If COVID-19 preys on existing racist structures in our healthcare system, then we need to study those structures and work with others to dismantle them. This time offers us the opportunity to see racism for what it is: a real and present danger to God’s children everywhere. Let us treat it as such and work to dismantle it.
- Take a look at the Union of Black Episcopalians’ Liturgy and Music resource page.
- Consider how you might plan special liturgies and feast days for saints of color. The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints can be found in A Great Cloud of Witnesses.
- Utilize our resources as the Episcopal Church by visiting the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, our churchwide center for racial justice in the Episcopal Church, as well as the Episcopal Church’s Responding to Racist Violence and Racial Reconciliation pages.
- Watch the Absalom Jones Center’s three-part webinar series A Cry To God Together: Lament in the Midst Of Covid-19:
- Learn more about the issues facing people of color in Colorado by visiting Soul2Soul, a faith-based, black-women-led, racial justice organization in Colorado.
Act and Advocate
- Join the work of racial justice in our diocese by contacting Darren Armstrong, chair of the diocesan Race Task Force.
- Get involved with making racial justice a reality through community organizing. Get involved with our diocesan partner, Together Colorado, today!
- Give time and money to Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a black-women-led, faith-based, racial justice organization in Colorado.
To learn more about Becoming Beloved Community, visit the web page Racial Inequality: Becoming Beloved Community. There you can explore additional information about race injustice and oppression, its impact on people, why we are called to become beloved community, and the actions you can take for yourself and for your congregation. You will also find a list of advocates and mentors who are ready to come alongside you in this work. Go to page >
COVID-19 has brought about a dramatic sense of loss in a very short window of time. While not exclusive these include: loss of jobs and finances, loss of healthcare-physical and mental health resources, childcare, elder care, loss of touch and social security, loss of sense of worth with layoffs and being told you are not essential or that your are essential but not worth protecting, loss of hope with nothing to look forward to and no way to celebrate milestones.
COVID-19 has heightened stress, adding a whole new slew of stressors to compound existing stress. Again, while not exclusive this includes the stress of managing daily needs such as homeschool, emotions, spirituality, family or isolation; the added mental stress of pandemic and fear of getting sick; the added stress of already negative home situations worsened; the risk and affects of addiction; the new stress of mundane-ness of life stuck in limbo.
While COVID-19 has kept us apart there are some positive effects we are seeing: more access to community through virtual space allows the elderly and people with disability to more fully participate by giving them access to space they couldn’t previously access, there is less bullying for those who were physically bullied at school, there is in increased awareness in mental health, self care, and trauma, and protective factors are being reinstated in the lives of some: family bonding, talking more, living slower.
COVID-19 is making it much more difficult to take care of one another:
- Being in community and physical touch are human needs that we’ve had to forego.
- Mental exhaustion makes it hard to focus on others.
- Lack of resources and lack of understanding makes it difficult to give or receive help.
- We have to work harder to tell if someone is struggling when our only contact with them is online or by phone.
Through COVID-19 we are reminded that we are a people of hope and resilience: We are more determined to help others, which can motivate people to take training, have more conversations, and to walk in faith.
We are learning about mental health: We have started to be okay with not being okay; we are talking about our feelings and listening to others.
COVID-19 is helping us to become empowered. We are learning that little things make a difference. We are more skilled at adapting than we knew, and no problem is too big.
It is teaching us to recognize that we all deal with stress differently. Just because we are okay doesn’t mean everyone is. We are learning to take the time to check in with people.
We are learning that change is possible. In a relatively short time we dramatically changed the way we live and we are benefiting from it: slowing down and taking sabbath, letting go of expectations/pressure, reprioritizing health, looking for joy and love over hate and fear.
Allow yourself to be formed through bringing hope and helping prevent suicide:
- Embrace Hope: Incorporate those in suicidal crisis into your daily prayer practice. Reach out to people you think may be having a hard time and see how they really are. Know that you truly can make a difference to someone in crisis by being there.
- Learn about suicide prevention: Check out some of the many suicide prevention and mental health websites, such as How Are you Really, the National Institute for Mental Health, and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline; consider signing up for email updates and alerts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Act and Advocate
- Take one action at a time: Being there for someone in suicidal crisis is a big deal and it can seem very overwhelming if you try to do everything all at once. The important thing is that you do something, even if it’s small. Try writing letters to people who may be extra lonely right now to let them know someone is thinking about them, pick up the phone and call someone you love, sign up for an online mental health course, admit that it’s okay to not be okay and talk about your own feelings with someone you trust.
- Visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to see what state and federal bills need your support right now.
- If you see something, say something.
- Be prepared: Put the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, in your phone and be willing to share it with any and everyone.
- Practice asking “Are you thinking about suicide?” and “Do you have a plan?” out loud. It is a myth that asking someone if they are suicidal will cause them to attempt suicide. Asking is scary, so become comfortable asking now.
To learn more about Bringing Hope and Preventing Suicide, visit the web page Suicide Crisis: Bringing Hope, Preventing Suicide. There you can explore additional information about the suicide crisis, its impact on people, why we are called to bring hope and prevent suicide, and the many actions you can take for yourself and for your congregation. You will also find a list of advocates and mentors who are ready to come alongside you in this work. Go to page >
- COVID-19 is exacerbating already existing social inequality for the lives of LGBTQIA people.
- LGBTQIA people experience unique forms of isolation in this time because of social distancing and “stay-at-home” orders.
- Transgender youth are at especially high risk as a result of COVID-19 because of isolation in potentially abusive home environments
- Closetted LGBTQIA people may experience this time of social distancing differently from others because of separation from support systems at school, work, in the community, or in their social lives.
- LGBTQIA people who live with unaffirming or abusive families are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, homelessness, and addiction (like smoking cigarettes). They are also more likely to work in industries experiencing mass layoffs due to Coronavirus, making LGBTQIA people more likely to be without a job or health insurance.
- Because of systemic discrimination and “stay-at-home” circumstances, LGBTQIA people are less likely to report abuse or hardship.
- Higher rates of smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products puts LGBTQIA people at a higher risk for having serious or fatal cases of COVID-19 than the general population.
It is possible that some LGBTQIA people who were experiencing bullying, harassment, intimidation, or other kinds of violent/discriminatory behavior at work or school no longer have to experience that trauma on a daily basis.
The welcoming and inclusion of LGBTQIA people in the church has to do with the attitudes of the community, so in this way, COVID-19 has not changed this reality. Affirming churches are still affirming and discriminatory churches are still discriminating.
An important question to ask is, “Where are the LGBTQIA people in our congregations that we aren’t seeing?” We need to pay specific attention to LGBTQIA youth, who tend to be more isolated than their straight and allied peers.
In general, COVID-19 has not made it easier to welcome and include LGBTQIA people. Hopefully, we will come through this with the realization that our common life together is more important than our differences
Welcoming and inclusion is about so much more than using rainbow colors on your website (though, having outward symbols of inclusion is a great start).
Care for communities of marginalized people means investment in every level of the lives of those communities, from access to healthcare to freedom from dicrimination in the workplace.
Coronavirus is impacting LGBTQIA people differently from other marginalized communities, making measuring that impact more difficult while we are in the “stay-at-home” or “safer-at-home” phase because of the disbursement of LGBTQIA people throughout different homes (there is less of a population center for LGBTQIA people than with other marginalized communities).
Equitable access to safe and affirming home and work environments, affordable healthcare, mental health resources, and peers with similar experiences are life-saving resources for LGBTQIA people, especially LGBTQIA people of color. These are things the church and its people can impact positively by taking action in local, state, and federal elections.
- Regularly pray for LGBTQIA people in your life, your family, and your community
- Invite LGBTQIA people in your congregation to be involved in organizing/planning/implementing worship services, even while they are being held remotely.
- Participate in the online LGBTQIA Welcoming and Inclusion realities intensive training, with dates to be announced soon.
- If you are curious about the state of LGBTQ inclusion in Colorado read this study from One Colorado published in 2018.
- Encourage LGBTQIA individuals to be graceful with themselves, to reach out to friends, to ask for what they need, and to remember they are not alone.
- Be an ally. Embrace your LGBTQIA friends and family. If you have transgender individuals in your life, always use the correct name and pronouns for them. One affirming friend/ally can make the difference between life and death for an LGBTQIA person who is struggling.
- Continue to build relationships with LGBTQIA organizations, asking how you can support them in this time.
- Invite LGBTQIA people to be involved in online worship services.
- Consider exploring becoming a Believe Out Loud worshiping community.
- Participate in Denver Pride online.
To learn more about Welcoming and Including LGBTQIA People, visit the web page LGBTQIA Diversity: Welcoming and Inclusion. There you can explore additional information about LGBTQIA diversity, why we are called to welcome and include LGBTQIA people, and the many actions you can take for yourself and for your congregation. You will also find a list of advocates and mentors who are ready to come alongside you in this work. Go to page >
People in poor living conditions—cramped space, lack of access to green space, lack of access to healthy food—are experiencing higher rates of infection and death.
People working in essential, but already dangerous work conditions, such as meat packing, are at risk not only because of having to go to work, but because the nature and configuration of their workplaces puts them at higher risk for infection.
The already existing lack of access to healthy foods is compounded by increased economic hardships, making it harder for people to take preventative care of themselves.
Slowdown in production of climate-change-causing carbon emissions has resulted in improved air quality.
Reduced travel means slower spread of invasive species and pathogens.
People are being drawn outdoors and potentially benefiting from “green therapy” and discovering a new love of creation.
The anxiety surrounding COVID-19 means people have less bandwidth for the added anxiety of climate change and the steps we need to take to stop it.
Many people want to get back to “normal” as soon as possible, which may make them give up beneficial lifestyle changes realized during the pandemic.
There is a risk of governments ignoring, delaying, or even reversing green legislation amid the focus on getting people back to work.
The break in intense patterns of consumption—reduction in use of the earth’s resources, decreased waste, and lowering of toxic emissions—puts less stress on the earth and allows it to rest and heal.
The earth is resilient and able to heal when taxed less, but not if we return to old behaviors.
People can rapidly and drastically change their behavior to benefit the greater good.
Science matters. In the case of creation care, it reminds us that climate change is real, and it is an existential threat; that the loss of habitat and biodiversity creates conditions for lethal new viruses; that a global economy increases the risk and rate of spread of pathogens.
All of creation, including humans, is a web of interconnectivity.
We are all at risk in times of crisis, although unequally.
We need to change our systems to protect the most vulnerable and to be equipped to respond to disaster.
Allow yourself to be formed through care of creation:
- Embrace creation: Incorporate creation care into your daily prayer practice, weekly worship, and regular exercise rituals. Find holy places outside of church spaces.
- Read one the many great books about creation care; have a book study; understand the facts about how climate change happens; check out what the state and national legislatures are doing to reduce climate threat and protect people.
Act and Advocate
- Take one action at a time: It’s well known that we sabotage changing our behavior if we try too much too fast. Try an additional vegetarian meal each week, switch to renewable energy, consolidate trips to stores, buy less. See where it leads…perhaps to writing your congressperson, making your next car a hybrid or electric vehicle, installing solar panels.
- Talk to your neighbors about creation care, initiate composting in your community, donate to healthy food ministries like Metro Caring. Identify community/neighborhood partners to serve in care of creation.
- Be prepared: Discern how your church can be an asset for your community in times of crisis.
Understand that finding solutions and taking action brings hope and mitigates the threat and impact of future crises.
To learn more about Honoring and Protecting Creation, visit the web page Climate Crisis: Honoring and Protecting Creation. There you can explore additional information about the changing climate, its impact on people, why we are called to honor and protect creation, and the many actions you can take for yourself and for your congregation. You will also find a list of advocates and mentors who are ready to come alongside you in this work. Go to page >