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  • Jonathan C. Roach

"Three Years" Reflection by Associate Conference Minister

Originally published in the Coconut Wireless, February 2, 2022.

Three Years

We are starting our third year of the COVID pandemic. Recently, this realization hit me like a brick wall. As a friend observed to me, this omicron wave is robbing people of their optimism. It is making people grumpy. It's raising anxiety levels. When we first closed down, I thought it would be like a sprint: fast and hard, but over quickly. Everything back to "normal" by the summer. But then our struggle with COVID became a marathon just racing to get to a vaccine, then maybe it would be back to "normal." Then the marathon became a triathlon; a triathlon that none of us trained for. Now, there is hope that as this wave recedes, we might be at a beginning point of learning how to live with the reality of COVID. But we don't know for sure. There is still uncertainty. We don't know what is next… Oh God, what now?

For me, the pandemic has been hard emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. It has been draining. I find uncertainty hard to deal with. During this pandemic, I built up my resiliency through spiritual exercises: prayer walking, practicing gratitude, devotional reading, gardening, listening to the scriptures. The minor prophets Haggai and Zachariah have been incredibly important for me as I worked to strengthen my connections to God and neighbor as well as to empower me to be more hopeful about our future. Haggai and Zachariah preached messages of hope and endurance to a people who had spent 20 some years trying to rebuild their lives after everything had been destroyed, but after 20 years they were nowhere near finished. They were lacking resources and were running out of hope. But these two prophets wouldn't let their people give up. In a seemingly hopeless and uncertain situation, they proclaimed God's message of hope and solidarity.

Throughout our scriptures and the history of Christianity, many people have asked: Oh God, what now? The Prophet Jonah asked this out of his anger. Ruth asked it out of poverty and physical hunger. Paul asked it in fear. Francis of Assisi asked it after he was a prisoner of war. Here in our Conference, the Formation Missional Team is asking us all to prayerfully ask this question at our Church Leaders Event on February 26 via Zoom. Oh God, what now? This important event will include worship, listening for God's still speaking wisdom from panelists, and an opportunity for everyone to share in small group discussions. Let us ask that vital question together: Oh God, what now? And let us listen for hope, solidarity, and insights on moving our churches and ourselves forward in this uncertain third year of the COVID pandemic.

Jonathan Roach, Associate Conference Minister


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