Friday, March 20, 2020


Suddenly, our patterns of daily life have changed. And, this is only the beginning of much more to come. Experts are now talking about as long as eighteen months before the danger subsides. Every single one of us is going to be impacted in ways we cannot know now. So, what to do for the duration of this pandemic? How should we react to this crisis that has befallen us, and the rest of the world?

"Social distancing" is the code term of the day. This means stay at home if possible, or if not possible, keep six feet away from the next person. If that is not possible, protect yourself, at least by washing hands frequently. This is a highly contagious virus that spreads easily from coughs and sneezes and from surfaces. If you are over the age of 60 and/or have immune compromising underlying issues (hypertension, heart trouble, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases) you should take extra precautions.

Sometimes this social distancing is very hard to do. Last week, my one and only grandchild stopped by for a visit on her way from California to South Carolina. I had not seen her in fourteen months. I wanted more than anything to give her a big bear hug as is my custom. We all resisted touching, however, but when she left, I was left a bit depressed.  

Social distancing is against human nature. Human beings are and have always been social animals. It is in our nature to interact in groups. In the Paleolithic Age, all societies lived communally, that is, together in groups as they moved from place to place in search of food. The idea of living separately, even in family units, really began to take hold as the Neolithic Age dawned, around 10,000 B.C.E. As people developed settled agriculture (farming the land and keeping animals), they separated into units on the divided pieces of land. Even then they kept social contacts in villages or other ways and the idea of a greater nation-state binding a large area together gradually emerged. Even in America, where we like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, we have always been bound by a greater sense of community. In short, what the experts are telling us to do now is not in our nature. It is certainly in our greater interest at the moment in order to stop the spread of the virus but social distancing may well have adverse effects as loneliness and depression.

We church people are social by the very nature of church. The church is a group. It conducts itself by group dynamics. Therefore, the church will have to find innovative ways to mesh the urge for group interaction with the necessity of distancing. One good way churches are rising to the occasion is by transmitting electronic services. These days, most people have smart phones and various forms of computers. For some of the elderly, digital communication can be a problem. My teenage granddaughter knows far more about digital forms than I do. Nowadays, children grow up with it in the schools. It is second nature to them. Nevertheless, the church can find innovative ways to use digital media to connect church and people.

In the Episcopal church, numerous parishes are offering online services. Washington National Cathedral offers Morning Prayer, Monday-Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday worship at 11:15 a.m. These are livestreamed and then posted as video files. Find the information about this here . Likewise, Grace Church Cathedral, in Charleston is offering Morning Prayer, daily, Monday-Friday, as well as 11:00 Sunday service. These are all livestreamed and later available as video files. Find these at Youtube-Grace Church Cathedral. In the EDSC, two other parishes are offering online church, St. Anne's of Conway, and St. Catherine's of Florence. Several other parishes are providing audio files. Find the details of these offerings on the EDSC website here .

In the disassociated diocese, numerous parishes are providing online church services. Interesting to note that all but one of these are legally Episcopal churches. Even though they are temporarily occupied by non-Episcopal clergy, it is important to keep worship going pending the return of the Episcopal bishop. Find the details here . According to the ADSC website, the following are available online:
Church of the Cross, in Bluffton; Christ Church, of Mt. Pleasant; St. Paul's, of Conway; Holy Trinity, in Grahamville; Holy Cross, of Stateburg; Christ/St. Paul's, of Yonges Island; St. Helena's, in Beaufort; St. Philip's, of Charleston; Good Shepherd, in Charleston; Epiphany, in Eutawville; Our Saviour, on Johns Island; and All Saints, in Florence.

Churches, indeed, all of us as individuals, should remain concerned about people who may be most impacted by the social isolation, particularly the elderly, and people who live alone. Almost everyone has a telephone. At the very least we can call and check on people we know to be most vulnerable in this hour of crisis. We can pick up a few items at the grocery, collect a prescription at the pharmacy, or just say "Hello."

Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and that can promote depression. These could be adverse side effects of the virus. If we remain cognizant of this, we can work to mitigate the effects, at least on the most vulnerable ones among us. We are social animals, and here is a way we can put that nature to work, caring for others.

For those of us staying at home to social distance, we should think of ways to use our time helpfully for others and ourselves. Here is what I am doing. Fortunately, I have a large garden that needs a lot of work. This is great therapy (We are having a glorious springtime and many plants are bursting out in all their beauty; however, it is cloudy and dark today. No photos.) I have even taken to mowing my own lawn rather than hiring it out as I have in the past. Even if you do not have a garden, or a yard, you can still garden on a small scale. A pot, potting soil, and plants, and there you are. Inside I have a stack of books I want to read, TV, and my computer. I try to limit the news on TV. Too much of that is too upsetting. My wife Sandy spends a lot of time talking on the phone with her church friends who live alone as well as catching up on her reading. She also keeps in stock the free pantry in our church parking lot. Her favorite reading of late is Jon Meacham's book on the last words of Christ on the cross, The Hope of Glory. She recommends it, especially now in Lent. Don't forget table games. My favorite is Yahtzee. The games are short and are not complicated. The old standard Monopoly is good but games can last for hours. How about jigsaw puzzles? I am fond of Sudoku and crossword puzzles. I am also bringing back hobbies that I have had in the past, such as working on my family genealogy. If you have youngsters in the house, you will have to come up with a lot of innovative ideas, that is if you can unglue them from their electronic devices.

What I am trying to do is listen to the advice of the experts and practice social distancing. Here in America this is now on a voluntary basis. However, there are places abroad where this is not voluntarily. In some big cities in Europe no one is allowed on the streets without a pass from the authorities and then only for necessities as food and medicines. We do not want to get to that stage and should not have to if everyone cooperates voluntarily now.

For the video of the day showing how people are adapting to social distancing, click here .