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A little over a week ago, I joined a small group of Drury students, staff, and volunteers as we held our Tuesday noon chapel and lunch in the Stone Chapel lounge. We read a liturgy for victims of the coronavirus. We shared scriptures, and I offered a simple prayer. The liturgy reminded us of the people being impacted – from medical professionals to residents in nursing homes. The scriptures provided comforting words of God’s presence, and the prayer was a humble appeal for God to shelter us in this time of global health crisis.
The New Testament passage we read was from Colossians 3:12-17. It described putting on virtues the way that one would put on clothes. As Paul wrote, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful…”
Medical professionals caring for the sick need to wear protective clothing to do their work and stay healthy. Older people - and others who are younger but have medical conditions – also may need to wear special attire. All of us should practice social distancing. But Paul’s kind of clothing may be a special gift.
Being compassionate with ourselves and others in a time of stress can be a blessing. Engaging in acts of kindness to victims and their families can bring comfort, and showing love to those who are frightened can restore a sense of peace.
Paul’s recommendation that we give thanks may seem strange at this time, yet it is perhaps the most life-giving act of all. We can focus on our fear or we can lift up gratitude for our blessings. In this perilous time pausing to thank people who are acting to save lives brings hope. Focusing on the needs of others reduces anxiety; and working in simple ways to help the most vulnerable offers mercy.
I pray for our students as they return to their families. I pray for international students who are anxious about the safety of their families especially when those family members are in parts of the world most deeply affected by the pandemic. I pray for our university leadership seeking to assure safety and continued community connection at a time of anxiety and fear. I pray for our faculty and staff who are working to support students and allow learning to continue in an online format after the extended spring break. And I pray for our alumni/ae family around the world who are seeking to care for their loved ones and protect themselves during this difficult time.
Blessings of safety, health, and hope be with you all and – as our Drury mission would call us to remember – with the entire global community.
Dr. Browning holds a B.A. in Philosophy and M.A./Ph.D. in divinity. He teaches Drury classes about ethics, theology, and the history of Christianity.