COVID-19: A reminder of what is truly important in life

Having more than 80,000 COVID-19 cases in the country as of this writing, most parts of the Philippines are still under strict quarantine protocols.Majority of restaurants and businesses have been operating in limited capacity, and most offices have been operating on a work-from-home set-up.  Mass gatherings are still prohibited, and church activities and religious worship services are no exemption to this.

With majority of the people practicing the Christian faith, Filipinos regularly spend a day in or go to churches to thank Jesus for the previous week’s blessings and for guidance and protection for the coming week. However, when government guidelines limited the participants of religious gatherings, many churches have resorted to online massor worship services.

Such is the case of Bread of Life Methodist Church in a rural village in Albay province during the strict quarantine period. Bread of Life Methodist Church is also a World Vision partner in ensuring that children in the community are emotionally and spiritually guided, especially during this pandemic.

“After our community was put under strict quarantine, we felt sad primarily because the lives of children could be at high risk due to this pandemic. Second,we thought that the changes in our way of life could negatively impact the livelihood of our members and their families. And last, we thought that about the possibility of fear and depression affecting people in our community,” Pastor Nonelio Talisic shared.

“In my church, we disseminated COVID-19 information through the use of internet. We decided to temporarily close the church building for the safety of all members. Instead of having the worship service in the main building, we implemented a program called Pagsambahay and used virtual conferencing application such as Skype, Zoom, FB Messenger, and/or Facebook Live,” he continued.

With most families relying on fishing and farming, having a strong internet connection or even a gadget, is considered not a necessity but rather a luxury.  Moreover, Pastor Nonelio admitted that online services proved to be difficult. “It is a hard task because it is difficult to get the attention of teens who are usually busy using their gadgets.  If it was face-to-face, you can easily call their attention, ask them to stop using their cell phones and focus on the teaching. It is also hard to explain lessons when you cannot directly see people and their reactions. Other challenges includeslow internet connection, and the interruptions from the surroundings.”

 

Spiritual nurture must continue

Despite the challenges that Pastor Noni’s church experienced, they continuously minister to their members. “I always call the members to update them, know how they are, and maintain our communication with each other.”

He constantly reminded parents of their responsibilities to their children who may not know how to cope with changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I always ask the parents to be more responsible to their children and explain to their children what could be the possible effects of the pandemic. Though our members cannot come to the church, we continued to conduct Sunday school activities via online.”

Though he has repeatedly taught on the importance of family in past church services, Pastor Noni sees the quarantine period as a good opportunity to assert this message even more.

He said, “This pandemic reminds us that family is still the foundation of the community. The COVID-19 pandemic brought families closer together.  Before the lockdown each family member is busy on his or her respective tasks.  Parents were busy providing for the basic needs of their family. But now parents are gradually recognizing their responsibility to care for their children’s health, emotions, and spiritual life.  Parents also spent more time with their children which they were not able to do before the pandemic. And the children also gained a lot by being with their parents – more time to learn from them, more time to have good memories with them.”

Pastor Noni believes that while the pandemic is not good in itself, it has, however, served as a painful reminder of what is truly important in our lives— the basic foundation of life and its simplicity.

After the province of Albay relaxes its quarantine status, the Bread of Life Methodist Church opened its doors to churchgoers while strictly implementing the recommended hygiene protocols and physical distancing.  There are two shortened church services held in the morning: at 6:00AM and at 9:00AM.

Photo by Pastor Noni Talisay