Sometimes the chaos in our world seems relentless. In this moment of history, teetering as we are on the edge of a possible economic recession, watching systemic racism reveal itself again in America, and worrying about the lives COVID-19 continues to claim, we ask with the psalmist, Who will show us any good?
While one narrative plays on our media channels, another plays out on the ground. It is a narrative I regularly rediscover through the process of writing church news for The Banner.
Earlier this month I learned that the Navajo Nation is hardest hit in the U.S. for coronavirus—Canadian news did not pick that up. I learned, too, what American news does not say: a high percentage of Navajo people belong to churches. Navajo leadership depends on those faith communities, and they are central to the pandemic response. They seek out the least-served in their communities even when they lack resources and despite the risk of infection.
In April, Pastor Bruinsma entered Grace Manor, a long-term care home in Ontario infected by the coronavirus. He voluntarily restricted himself to residents with COVID-19 to remain present as their pastor and offer end-of-life care. He called this his privilege.
This kind of sacrifice is not new. Two years ago, a mass displacement of people in the Ituri province of the DR Congo made international news. With NGOs tied up, local churches stepped in, housing displaced people and taking collections to feed them. Canadian churches and individuals heard about this and donated $20,000 into the care of Congolese church leaders.
Where are the churches? Here. The churches are here. God’s people are here. Goodness is here.
Today many denominations are uniting for greater impact—a unity that is beautiful to behold. This, too, has happened before. History books won’t tell you that in World War II in Holland, churches united to distribute food and to transport undernourished children to farms. Think of that. Families willingly accepted strangers to feed during the last, hard months of the war and in the months following liberation. Catholics and Protestants regularly united in condemning Nazi action against Jewish people—did you know that? Or that many pastors, from every denomination in Holland, were arrested for those protests? I probably never would have known if I wasn’t writing an article that begged the question, where was the church?
The church has always stood with the suffering in moments of crisis, yet the church has never been immune to that suffering—whether it be arrest in occupied Holland or the risk of COVID-19 today. Still the church serves.
Tim Hughes, a man from Gas Street Church in Birmingham, was interviewed after the song “UK Blessing” went viral overnight. He emphasized that, “With this song, we’re not just proclaiming this blessing over our nation, the church is demonstrating this blessing.” The 65 churches who sang “UK Blessing” served 400,000 meals since COVID-19 lockdown—and they are only a small sampling of the work of churches around the world. His interviewer asks, “Do you think the media will pick up on this?” Hughes replies, “Probably not.”
Then he adds, “It’s a shame, but the church just needs to keep being faithful. Keep serving.”
Where is the church? Where it has always been—in the thick of things, helping in tangible ways. Like a raven building its nest from shiny bits and pieces, church news allows us to seek out and collect these moments, stockpiling hope. Hope is essential these days.