Most people probably thought the shutdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic would result in a couple of weeks of inconvenience. However, six months later we’re still encouraged to practice social distancing, to wear masks, and stay home as much as possible. Amid these lockdowns, church members are experiencing the grinding effects of isolation. Not only are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems at risk, but so are those cut off from their fellow church members, family, and friends.
Fortunately, there are a number of freely accessible ways to stay connected during this Covid-19 times. Google Hangouts is one way to message, share video, or make voice calls with one person or an entire group. For those with iPhones, multiple faces can appear on the same screen, giving the experience of a real gathering. Unlike Google Hangouts, it should be noted that FaceTime can only be used with Phones, iPads, or other Apple devices.
Once a business meeting tool, Zoom is a great way to have virtual prayer meetings, worship services, or meet with the AA or NA group that gathers at your church during the week.
Most people over 40 have a Facebook account, and the social media platform has a whole suite of virtual connectivity options. If your church sponsors live worship services, small group studies, or posts videos, Watch Party is an extra feature on Facebook where church members can invite others to gather together – plus they can see and hear each other’s comments if desired.
Another great idea is in staying connected during these times, is to host a Netflix movie night for a youth group or other church group. Netflix Party is a new way that friends can watch Netflix together. Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and allows you to have a group chat while watching online.
Another idea for the young of all ages is Houseparty. This video app for smartphones allows you to play games such as Quick Draw and Pictionary. There are also screen sharing capabilities. Best of all, it's free.
Some other revolutionary ideas for staying connected include picking up the phone or sending a card. If you know someone in your church who is especially at risk or isolated, consider giving them a call at least once a week. Notes don’t have to be a dissertation. A short hand-written note received in the mail can bring a smile to someone’s face as they realize they are not forgotten during these strange times.There is a whole new world of ways to stay connected during this time of social distancing. The most important thing is to not become a recluse.
The latest reports during this Covid-19 pandemic show that divorce and suicides are on the rise in America. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Sociology to understand why. Social distancing will probably speed the end of this pandemic, but it takes social connection to maintain our sanity and civility.
There are a number of reasons we need to stay connected. Research shows that extended social isolation can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety, and heart disease.
Considering the negative impact -- spiritually, emotionally, and physically -- those in any form of treatment for addiction most need to stay connected with their fellow church members and peer support groups. No one outside of the family offers the kind of support a caring community of faith can.
If you need to connect and don’t know how, give your church office a call and ask what is available. If there isn’t much, consider starting an online group for those you know at church. Be creative. One older disabled woman started a Facebook chat group with some of her church friends where they can pray and socialize together.
On a final note: Get on with life apart from talk about Covid-19. Stephanie Knight, MD, FAPA, chief of psychiatry at University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus suggests we give ourselves a break from talking about all things coronavirus. We may want to stay informed, but too much focus on the negative can be distressing. She suggests switching the conversation topics up now and then to give our minds and spirits a welcome distraction.