29 Apr GS Letter APR 2020
For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. (Ecclesiastes 9:12a, NRSV)
Most people will agree to the above verse. Honestly speaking, no one ever anticipated that the Covid-19 pandemic can dent humankind and society so globally and catastrophically as what we are seeing now. Not only has it taken many people’s lives and livelihood, but it has also devastatingly disrupted our life (at work, at home, in church, or socially), with the introduction of numerous novel and inconvenient restrictions and arrangements. We naturally long to go back to the way we used to live before the pandemic period.
However, what if the current rules on social distancing and wearing a mask in public remain, even beyond the Circuit Breaker (CB) period? What if Work From Home (WFH) and Home-Based Learning (HBL) in schools and tertiary institutes continue indefinitely? What if online streaming Sunday service and Zoom Bible study/small group fellowship becomes a irreplaceable necessity? And in the wider context, for example, what if the migrant workers continue to stay and live among us in our neighbourhoods, as big isolated dormitories would be considered no longer a benevolent option?
What if all the above becomes a new normal that will stick with us all the time?
Our responses may vary. We can sigh, complain, or linger in victim mentality. Or we can embrace the hard realities of change and move on with readiness to navigate the change. I suppose that the above new circumstances and habits are like “signals” of the future being pushed into our life now due to the pandemic. So, though we cannot anticipate the time of disaster, we can attempt to, using biomedical terminologies, “dissect” those “signals” genetically and “edit” the future, which we, with our Christian faith and values, aspire to shape.
Before that, let us start this reimagination journey with the famous Serenity Prayer, advocated by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In my opinion, there are at least four things we must have courage to re-imagine in a post-pandemic future.
First, let us have courage to reimagine what really matters in our life. WFH reveals the state of our work ethics and the fabric of our marriage and family. HBL shows the level of patience we have as parents towards our kids and how genuine we study as students. If WFH and HBL remain, then can we reimagine a marriage, a family, and a workplace that are more loving, in mutual submission, filled with encouragement, and sincerity (Col. 3:17–22)? It is not where we work or study, but how we work and study wherever the location is.
Second, is to reimagine how we do church and missions. While physical meetings at our local churches may gradually resume, in the meantime, let us live out what pastoral care, discipleship, and witnessing may entail in the era of “church without walls”, like what we have seen during the CB period. Can we make a simple phone call to someone living alone? Or create a virtual safe space for the wary and depressed? Or start an online missional or social project across denominational boundaries? The body of Christ does not need to wait for a physical meeting, in order to be united and empowered. We have been united in Christ and empowered to do so by the Spirit. To the world and the Others, let us reimagine what a Resurrection People should live, as what Scripture mandates: to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8), love them as ourselves (Lev. 19:34) and do good works for them (Eph. 2:10).
Third, especially in FES student ministry, we need to reimagine and innovate, or face irrelevance. Our staff team and student leaders are now in rigorous discussion on this matter. FES has in place an online/virtual presence at the following: Telegram Channel: https://t.me/fesfellowship; Instagram: #fesfellowship; and Facebook Page: @fesfellowship. Kindly follow or subscribe to any of these if you have not done so.
However, we realise the above is insufficient. Brushing up new skills to effectively do training or Bible study in the era of Zoom meetings. Devising a relevant and useful digital pedagogy that really “scratches where it itches”. Stoking curiosity and conversations online, thus reaching out to groups of students unreachable by the standard CF programme. These are three examples of ideas in the pipeline. Pray with us that not only will God find us faithful in this disruptive era, but also trustworthy in what we have been entrusted (1 Cor. 4:2)
Lastly, a reimagination of what global politics and economy would look like. I will not mention much here due to its vast and complex scope. I pray and hope that God will raise people to voice out, using Walter Brueggemann’s phrase, “prophetic imagination”, for a better public health system, a deeper global solidarity, and an end to injustice and inequality.
Let us continue this conversation of reimagination, so it will not remain as wishful rhetoric, but embodied into real and tangible practices and ways of life. All comments and inputs are welcomed.
In His grace,