Pandemics, Jesus, and me

The Rev'd Robert W.A. Park
On Tuesday this past week, the clergy and other leaders of the Diocese of Niagara gathered for a day long meeting. At the afternoon session, we talked about the threat of a flu pandemic. We were informed of the estimated impact on Ontario and also importantly, about how we need to be prepared to respond as a church and as Christians to a pandemic.

We told about the beginning work of a tri-diocesan task force, Toronto Niagara, and Huron, to begin to put together a plan to prepare us for an appropriate response. In a letter addressed to all parishes in our diocese, this task force writes,

“The Tri-Diocesan task force is planning to review such issues as pro-active methods of communicating infection control strategies including proper hand-washing techniques and dealing with droplet/airborne contagion; provision of ministry and support of our communities in the event of a pandemic; and pro-active and timely information dissemination to parishioners and to the greater public.”

To be perfectly honest, I had never really thought it through. I am also aware that there are a lot of “ifs” involved, but as the Bishop reminded us, all we have to do is look back in our parish archives to 1918 to 1921 to be reminded of the impact of a pandemic.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

The renewed challenge of this weeks gospel message that I see when faced with a possible pandemic, is what will I do? What risks will I take to express my faith? What risks will I take to act with compassion for those who are sick or who are suffering? What risk will I take to comfort the dying or the bereaved?

The challenge would also be put to us as a church. How can we work as a community to help and support those who may be in need in our own community and nieghbourhood, or elsewhere in the country or in the world? What role will you play? What risk would you be willing to take to live out your Christian faith?

Good questions. Good questions that we do not have to wrestle with alone.

The Rev’d Rob Park