“Navigating Pandemics, Chronicling the Witness: How Churches of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ Made Faith Their Own during the Pandemics of Systemic Racism and COVID-19 ”
On 13 March 2020, America entered a national emergency due to the 2019 outbreak of the coronavirus, “COVID-19.” Since then, the nation has been suffering under two deadly pandemics—COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice. Consequently, the universal church was thrust abruptly into wrestling with, “How to Be the Church” during pandemics. This entailed how to gather for worship, spiritual formation programs, youth group and other communal forum in person. In the midst of racial unrest exacerbated by the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd in the span of two weeks, the church wrestled with how to attack systemic injustice and racism while standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable. As churches faithfully endeavored to give witness to a liberative gospel and serve its communities, they were forced to respond and be church in innovative, creative and unfamiliar ways.
Future generations will look back in wonder and study how the church journeyed through these pandemics and in some ways thrived. It is important to capture and chronicle now the church’s witness. In capturing the witness, we explore how the church interpreted and responded to the still speaking God in this generation. In doing so, future generations will reflect upon this historic period and see how the church made the faith its own. Just as churches looked back at how we survived other historical periods—civil war, revolutionary war, etc—as a means to inform their decision making during this time, so will future generations look back at this historical period.
Based upon my findings, I will develop a “time capsule” and presentation that creatively captures and tells the story. The “time capsule” will be a collective work product consisting of a multi-media presentation, written chronicle, and “museum” display of artifacts. The idea is to tell the story through a variety of media being faithful to the myriad and diverse ways we were creatively church during the pandemics.