“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. “ Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
Everywhere I go, I see security guards holding infrared thermometers in their hands, and people queuing up and keeping at least a metre apart to be tested just to make essential purchases at shops. Universities have moved all courses online; working adults are adapting to working from home, and family members are experiencing more of each other’s physical presence than before. This is the new normal, perhaps a normal that we all find challenging to cope with.
This new normal has forced us into life without being in a physical community that most of us are familiar with. While technologies are able to help us keep in touch with our community of friends, it still feels different, and sometimes draining. I miss the chaotic chitchatting in a community, hysterical laughter on the basketball court, and casual walks to the town centre while savouring cones of gelato with friends - all of which can never be done over virtual meetings. I miss the presence of a physical community.
Christianity focuses very much on communal living, which is why many Christians can relate to this struggle. The community of faith tends to be the safe space that breaks down barriers and allows vulnerability. It encourages us to edify each other in our daily struggles and sometimes allows a gentle rebuke. It is a place for us to share our burdens (Galatians 6:2), and a place for us to foster love. In Matthew 18:20, we are further assured that in a community of even 2 or 3 people gathered in God’s name, there God is with them. Community proves to be an important element in our spiritual walk with God, a place for us to grow in our faith in Christ.
In this period of uncertainty, all of us are fighting valiantly for a sense of normalcy, when many people can finally be home and rest in their loved ones’ embrace. But when will this end? I cannot be sure. However, I am certain that each of us can still contribute in many ways possible especially in this time of suffering – may we continue to show love and hospitality in and beyond our community, and use the gift we have received in serving others, as stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (ref 1 Peter 4:8-10).
May this be a time for love to flourish, for compassion to shine through and for hope to turn our insecurities into anchors, as we look towards the future in faith when physical gathering in our faith community is possible again.