FIRST-PERSON: Chinese American churches react to coronavirus
Since the news of the coronavirus broke out in early January, we have seen our church attendance decrease by nearly 40 percent on Sunday mornings. I expect attendance to continue to decrease as more and more cases are reported worldwide and in America. Fear is one driving factor for the decrease in attendance, while good old precautionary common sense is the other.
Fear is a powerful emotion indeed. When our Elder and Deacon Board issued an official statement asking church members to self-quarantine if they had been to China recently, it sparked mixed reactions. On one hand, it assured the members that leadership is taking active precautionary steps to avoid contributing to the spread of coronavirus. On the other hand, it created suspicion and irrational fear in others to stay away from the church at all costs.
In addition, we have also seen fear driving a rise in racism and xenophobia against people of Chinese descent. I see more and more news articles on this topic daily. Unfortunately, this hit a little too close to home for my middle school daughter, Eliza Tan. She mentioned a boy in her school teased her by calling her "Coronavirus!"
In spite of fear, I have also seen our church readjusting to the new normal. Although many small groups are no longer meeting at church, they have started using video conferencing as an alternate way to gather, pray and encourage each other. There are also ongoing conversations regarding the possibility of live streaming small group meetings, church leadership meetings and Sunday services. We desire church members to participate even though they are not physically at church. It is encouraging to me that God's people will always find creative ways to worship despite their circumstances.
As this tragedy continues to unfold, we clearly see broken humanity and broken creation. It never ends. A new strain of the virus is always on the verge of breaking out. If it's not coronavirus today, it's Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from a decade or two ago. The good news is, most people infected with coronavirus can expect to recover, but all people plagued by sin have no escape from death. There is no cure, except the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord and Savior. May this terrible tragedy drive people to the arms of Jesus.