A Time to Shine
A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Pandemics and the Christian Response
Jesus’ ministry showed immense compassion towards those who were sick, suffering, or in poverty. He responded with kindness and concern and sought practical ways to alleviate their suffering. In the Gospels, we see Jesus expressing compassion and demonstrating the father heart of God to those in desperate need.
Historical records of the first and second century A.D. show that the early Christians, risked their own lives to care for sick and dying. One such event was the Antonine Plague (165–180 AD) brought to the Roman Empire by soldiers returning from Syria. Furthermore, in the following century, the Plague of Cyprian (251–266 AD) spread from Africa throughout the known world. It was transmitted person-to-person by physical contact and through sharing items (sound familiar?).
During each pandemic, government officials and the wealthy of the time often fled the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected. However, the Christian community remained behind to care for and support the needy, the sick and the disregarded. They were the frontline workers of their day.
In 260AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, claiming:
“Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
The early Christians’ commitment to caring for their neighbours and “the least of these” during times of wide-spread sickness, believers and unbelievers, demonstrated the authenticity of their message of love and hope. These Christ-like actions not only met a very practical need, but also attracted many outsiders to Christianity.
There are so many similarities between pandemics of the past and now, both in terms of how they have spread, and how people have tried to flee hot spots to protect themselves. But the similarity, I would pray for most, is the response of Christians. This is the time for Christians and Christian institutions to shine by showing the love of Christ to those who most need to know His love and compassion.
The Rise in COVID-19 Cases in Victoria
COVID-19 numbers continue to climb for Victoria, moving quickly from cases numbering daily in the 200s to the 400s. There is a real possibility, if this is not brought under control quickly, that the rest of Australia will also end-up in lockdown. The current spike of cases in Melbourne (July 2020) is more concerning to doctors than the previous spike in March. That is because current cases are due to community transmission, as opposed to originating from returning flights of Australians from overseas or cruise ships.
Also, unlike in March, the public is tiring of social distancing and restrictions which have prevented engagement in many regular activities and social gatherings. The novelty of working from home and educating from home has not only worn off, but now has a negative stigma attached to it. Finally, because there was not the same level of death and loss, as experienced in Europe and the USA, the reality of COVID’s destruction upon the Australian psyche is not as pervasive. Australia has seen very little actual COVID-19 destruction, which makes many of the measures and disruptions seem like over-reactions.
Today, we now know a lot more about the virus than when it first occurred in 2019. We know that COVID-19 is highly responsive to social distancing and handwashing. Medical professionals also now understand that COVID-19 is aerosolised and can be airborne for hours. Practices, such as keeping places well ventilated, meeting outside where possible, and wearing masks, make a major difference and are highly effective strategies in combating the virus.
In Australia, we have some of the highest rates of testing in the world, with centres testing anyone with symptoms. This means that Australia can detect early and trace clusters of infection when they develop in the community. Testing is a critical strategy in the identification and containment of the virus.
School, families and the broader community have the tools to avoid spikes of infection occurring across Australia, by:
- Continuing to social distance
- Adhering to good hand and surface hygiene practices
- Keeping homes, schools and workplaces well ventilated
- Wearing masks wherever there is a community transmission
- Recording the names of those people who enter school environments (for tracing, if needed)
- Getting tested immediately if any symptoms develop (and self isolating when necessary).
Schools will need to consider how they will respond to the continuing COVID-19 crisis as schools return for Term 3. Currently, Victorian schools are drawing up plans to deliver face-to-face and remote learning, but it may not be too far into the future that each State may be confronted with the same reality.
To this end, CSA will host a National Town Hall Meeting to help schools navigate a response to new COVID-19 developments.
4pm to 5pm | 28 July 20
CSA School Member Event
Do not miss out on these opportunities to connect and be informed, particularly our AGM, which will be a wonderful opportunity to ensure that schools are aware of the materials and support that we have made available, along with what is on the horizon. In addition, schools will be provided with a ‘sneak peek’ into some of the early thinking around the next CSA Strategic Plan and have the opportunity to give some initial feedback.
It is at the darkest hour that the light of God’s presence shines the brightest. Every area of difficulty we face is an opportunity for God to show how great He is. When situations such as COVID-19 impact our family, school and wider community it can often feel bleak and overwhelming in our own strength and efforts. However, it is in reality an opportunity for God’s glory to shine through.
I pray that as you enter together into Term 3 that you would have a tangible sense of His presence. That you would be guided in wisdom by the Holy Spirit. But most importantly that you would have a confidence of the love He has for you and your community through His son Jesus Christ.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”