During a webinar on the many effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Church of Norway fielded reflections from pastors and church leaders in diverse corners of the world. The presentation is part of a new webinar series, produced by Rev. Dr Einar Tjelle, on the local and global realities of COVID-19. Tjelle is head of Ecumenism & Interfaith Dialogue for the Church of Norway and the Council on Ecumenical &International Relations.
Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, said that the co-morbidities in his nation are very high among some people but not others. “COVID-19 can actually come and go away without symptoms but when you watch the co-morbidities, COVID-19 can have a big impact on you,” said Mtata. “This is not only true of individuals but also of societies. During our daily lives here in Zimbabwe, we see how COVID-19 has manifested itself as something that exposes the vulnerabilities we have always had as a nation.”
Rev. Dr Elfriede Dörr, a pastor with the Lutheran Church in Romania, reflected that the lockdown in Romania was both earlier and harsher than in other countries. “We were not allowed to go out, and, at that time, I felt that this was really a cut for us,” said Dörr. “We were not allowed to use the parks, and everybody started gardening.”
Now, Dörr said, people are in desperate need of pastoral care. “There are people who are telling about their psychological situation, full of fear, and the doctors’ waiting lists for psychological care are full,” she said.
Arne Naess-Holm, director of International Programmes for Norwegian Church Aid, an ecumenical diaconal organisation for global justice, spoke about helping those most in need.
“We work to help the poorest and those in need, regardless of their creed, race, political or religious affiliation,” said Naess-Holm. “The needs are larger than ever in the midst of the global pandemic and we are not able to travel as before; we have to develop new ways to do the humanitarian assistance and the long-term development work.”
Marianne Ejdersten, World Council of Churches director of communication, reflected that he pandemic is hitting all of us—the whole world—hard.
“Being a church in a time of vulnerability is even more relevant—being a present church,” she said. “God’s presence in the world precedes everything else. It is in God that we live, touch and exist. The mission of the church is to provide space for that presence at all stages of life.”
She also defined the role that the World Council of Churches has played an important role in the centre of the living fellowship. “We have been able to carry on playing a crucial role in the work with member churches all over the world, with international Geneva and with the World Health Organisation,” she said.