Since South Africans just like the rest of the world have heeded directives from their local and national governments to self-isolate, and everyday life experiences such as – faith, social, communal and commerce gatherings and interactions had to be stopped or done remotely.
For us, at our seminary, the call to end the academic term early and send seminarians home was a big blow. But understandably this had to be done to spare lives and slow the infection rate. Our Chapel (corporate worship) is the centre of our academic and formation life. We are in there 7 days a week, 3 times a day (Meditation, worship service – morning and evening and Compline Prayer at night). We observe the Angelus daily at midday. Going away with no clarity of when we will gather again, has been amongst other challenging matters.
Prayer and worship have taken on a new format, the one that many of us didn’t rehearse for nor budget for. Virtual worship (a new terminology in Liturgy) has been a new norm for many, but also challenging for those who don’t have access to the internet, thus depriving them of the opportunity of gathering with the faithful for worship. I find myself challenged on how to be a better pastoral caregiver during this period and how I will teach Pastoral Theology to my students, as so much has changed. The foremost question on my mind is how do we/I care and be present when getting close to each other can and may result in an infection that might lead to death for some?
With the challenges that COVID-19 presents to all of us, being church, being disciples, being caring, loving, and a reconciling community of believers is what we are called to be and to do. The acts of goodwill and generosity that are being demonstrated have iterated how much we need each other.
Self-isolation/social distancing/lockdown/shelter-in-place has been sobering, and more than anything it has enabled us to count our blessings and to do what we have told ourselves that we didn’t have time for.
May we begin the week with hope: hope that the hungry will be fed, the homeless will be sheltered, the sick will be healed, the bereaved will be comforted, the lonely will be befriended, and the vaccine will be found. We are the body of Christ and our sacred text reminds us what Jesus said to His followers “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
The Revd Canon Dr Vicentia Kgabe (PhD)
Rector and Principal of College of Transfiguration – Grahamstown, South Africa.
Picture: with thanks to the Church Times