Community Amidst a Climate of Social Distancing – by Emily Schmidt

The COVID-19 pandemic is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It continues to infect its way into our everyday lives, directly and indirectly. Each day brings something new: another case contracted, another entity declaring lockdown measures, and above all, another plea to practice social distancing.

The phrase “social distancing” has many interpretations, from limiting time spent in public places to basically putting oneself under house arrest. Nevertheless, social distancing has been difficult, especially for those who recharge from spending time with other people. I, on the other hand, am an introvert through and through. I typically feel drained after spending time in gatherings of people and need to recharge by myself. Over the last few months, however, I have realized that I need people more than I thought. Even if it’s just receiving a call from a friend or having that peace of mind knowing that someone else is in the room, I need people. Scratch that, I need community.

In May 2019, I relocated from my home in Morenci, MI to Northeast Indiana to join BHM first as a summer intern and more recently as a full-time field steward. Since being adopted into the BHM family, I have more fully explored what it means to seek and build community. I love that each work day begins with the Blue Crew meeting to discuss the day’s plans and enter into God’s presence with thanksgiving. I enjoy the conversation and teaching moments we have in the field and on the drive to a site. I am so thankful that I work with an amazing group of people who encourage each other when the work is taxing, assist after-hours with volunteer events, and gather outside of work in support of a fellow member of the BHM family. Just this past weekend, eight members of the BHM family congregated following a prescribed burn at Tri-State Airport to enter into communion. It was a beautiful reminder that even amidst the COVID-19, social distancing climate, we can come together as children of God to rejoice in the fact that Jesus is coming soon to restore our broken world–and he has already begun his work of restoration in and through us.

On a rare Sunday afternoon opportunity, Emily strings a line of fire during our annual prescribed fire at Tri-State Airport's prairie remnant
On a rare Sunday afternoon opportunity, Emily strings a line of fire during our annual prescribed fire at Tri-State Airport’s prairie remnant.

That experience has convinced me that now more than ever is the time to intentionally seek community. Many of us may be confined to our homes or prohibited from entering the workplace, but that does not mean that we are prisoners of isolation. We may be urged to practice physical social distancing, but we are not restrained from practicing other forms of the phrase. Call friends and family. Write a letter to an old friend. Utilize video chat and live streaming services to visit with loved ones or participate in church services from afar. As my boyfriend’s church did this Sunday, take the family for a drive around the neighborhood and pray over your community and COVID-19.

Though the current climate of social distancing discourages us from gathering together physically, we can still be intentional in the way we participate in community. Over the last few weeks, I have been especially mindful of BHM’s mission statement as well as verses such as Matt. 18:20, Heb. 10:24-25, and Rev. 21:3-4. The reality is, we have all been created for community; and as the Church, we are called to be a community of love to a broken world.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20  (NIV)

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