By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In 1941, then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt described Dec. 7 “as a day which will live in infamy” after the Japanese attacked and bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
This past year will probably be remembered by those who have survived it and historians who look back on 2020 as “the year that will live in infamy.”
To say 2020 was a difficult and trying time for all Americans would probably be the most understatement of all time.
I don’t think anyone fully understood the ramifications when word began to spread across the world and our nation about the virus that has become known as COVID-19.
As the virus reached the United States, it literally turned our world upside down. Who would ever have thought that we, Americans used to coming and going as we pleased, would ever be told to stay at home unless you were considered an “essential” employee?
I think most Americans, myself included, thought it would only be temporary and in a few weeks or just two or three months, we would be back to normal, whatever normal is for each of us.
We were wrong. As 2020 draws to a close, cases of COVID-19 are spiking each week. Hospital rooms are being filled. Though a vaccine has been approved, it will be months before most Americans will be able to get the vaccine.
And, if the worldwide pandemic was not enough, Americans were dealt additional blows by tornados and hurricanes which struck our nation, seemingly one after another. In Tennessee, just a week or so before the impact of COVID-19 became fully realized, tornados swept through portions of Middle Tennessee, destroying homes and generally making life even more miserable for those affected. A few weeks later, tornados hit sections of southeast Tennessee, leaving behind a string of misery there as well.
Throw in one of the most contested and bitter presidential elections of all time and racial unrest like I have never seen in my lifetime and it’s little wonder that 2020 may become known as the “year that will live in infamy.”
In my “Reflections” column in the April 1 issue, the first time we really began focusing on the impact of COVID-19 in our churches and across the state, I wrote that the disease is real, it’s dangerous and it needs to be taken seriously. Those words still hold true today.
Even today, with deaths from COVID reaching nearly 6,000 in Tennessee, there are those who believe America has overreacted. In some places, I would agree. But, for the most part, especially in our state, I feel leaders have tried to make wise decisions based on scientific and medical information as it becomes available. Let’s face this reality: You cannot please everyone.
That also applies to our churches. Many churches in Tennessee have stopped in-person gatherings once again as cases have spiked. Unfortunately, some Christians are inferring that other Christians are living in fear instead of faith. We do not need to judge.
Every church and every situation is different. Churches that have gone back to online services only are doing what they feel is best for their members. One pastor told me that his church experienced numerous cases and at least person, who is believed to have been exposed at church, died. We can’t and should not judge that church for being extra cautious while the virus is still rampant. Many churches are continuing to meet and are exercising caution by wearing masks and social distancing. Do I like wearing a mask in church? No, I can’t stand it, but I do it if it will protect the people beside me or in front or behind me.
Let’s not judge other Christians or churches on how they respond. We are in this together.
One good thing has come out of COVID this year. It has caused churches to think outside the box and find new ways to reach people when the people could not come to them. And, not only did they reach their people, they reached countless people through Facebook videos, livestreaming and other technology who heard the gospel and who would never have come to church, virus or no virus.
In that April 1 article, I also reminded our readers that God is in control and that “we have to live like it and show His love at a time when the world needs Him most.” Those same words apply as 2020 ends and a new year begins.
Don’t allow 2020 to leave you bitter. Allow our experiences, combined with our faith and trust in God, to help you build a stronger dependence upon God than ever before in 2021. He is our hope.