Like most people, 2020 has been a whirlwind of emotions, confusion, and stress. Being a pastor during a pandemic has been the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with. In the early stages, just trying to make a sound decision on when or if to stop gathering for worship was difficult. No matter what decision was made, I knew that I was going to be second-guessed by everyone. On top of those decisions, it was equally as challenging for many pastors to decide to reopen for worship: some thought it was too soon, while others thought that we should never have stopped meeting in the first place. Again, no matter what decision was made in this regard, people would criticize the decision.
Fast forward several months. Pastors are still trying to navigate the situation as best as possible while also trying to keep our people safe while being obedient to the commands to meet. To say that this is not ideal would be an understatement. The stresses of pastoring and loving members while understanding that real fear and concern exist and, on top of that, there are so many different opinions on either side. This makes the situation not only stressful but complex.
In August, one of my church members got covid and had to go to one of our area hospitals. The family stayed in the parking lot for days, not being able to see him or be with him. They could not hold his hand. They could tell him that he was loved. They could not be present with him to pray for him. And as days turned into weeks, he passed away. Alone and without anyone there to see him into glory. It was a horrible situation for the family.
As a pastor, one of the things that I love more than anything is making hospital visits. I truly do. And, to be honest, apart from seeing the fully gathered body of Christ at worship together, not being able to make hospital visits is the thing that I miss the most from pastoring during a pandemic. In this case, I would have gladly gone into the ICU and put on all necessary personal protection equipment to see my church member and to pray with and for him. But I wasn’t able to. Not only did covid take his life, it completely devastated a family. Seeing a family coming to terms with grief in this way is tragic and seeing people suffer alone is heartbreaking. As a pastor, having the feeling that there is nothing you can do about it is maddening.
The feeling of not being able to do anything about covid led me to a strange decision. I decided to volunteer for the Moderna vaccine trial. Now I did not tell many folks about this because of the various perspectives on it. There were constant talks about vaccines being the “mark of the beast” mentioned in Revelation. And there were/are many conspiracy theorists that believe the government was using vaccines to inject you with microchips to track your every movement (as if they don’t know already through your cellphone).
So, I signed up for the trial but kept it to myself.
To be honest, the only reason that I did was out of my experience with my church member who passed away because I hated the thought of not being able to do anything. But, at least now, I was able to feel at least that I was helping.
I am not a doctor, and I have no idea if covid-19 is as bad as the media is saying it is, nor do I know if the vaccine will help. And I am not saying that everyone should take it when it comes out because I realize that many questions remain from both covid and the vaccines. But I do know that during those horrible days in August when a family that I love was hurting because one of their loved ones was sick and alone, I felt that raw pain with them. Maybe, just maybe, these vaccines will help. I am prayerful and hopeful that they will help someone. But for me, signing up for the trial was simply a way for me to feel like I was doing something productive. Maybe it will be. Time will tell.
Over the coming months, I wished that I felt that things were trending upwards. But, to be honest, I don’t. I wish that covid was over. I wish that people were no longer hurting. I wish that people were able to be with their loved ones. I wish for a lot of things. I suspect that many pastors are now going to have to deal with the issues of vaccines in their churches over the next few months. And all I know is this: no one really has the answer. If you want to take the vaccine, then do so and not judge people who don’t. If you don’t want to take the vaccine, don’t but don’t judge those that do. But looking back on those few weeks in August, I can tell you that I wished that I could have done more. Whether the vaccine helps or not is not really up to me, but I cannot wait for Jesus to throw it back into the pit of hell where it belongs. Until then, we must place our hope in Christ. Let us continue to weep with those who weep, and let us continue to serve one another. And maybe, just maybe, next year will be better. But even if it is not, Jesus is good, and he is to be trusted.