COVID and Communal Faith

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          When I say I am an extrovert, I mean it. Sure, plenty of people believe that they are extroverts because they like to be around people—I love being around people! But more than that, I truly absorb energy from being with others. When I am able to spend time with anywhere between one to one hundred other people, I feel as though I am full of life and joy. So now that we have been stuck in quarantine for so many days that I’ve lost count, I suppose the question is: How on earth am I making it? During this time that I have spent with only those I live with, I have learned a lot about myself. One of the most significant things that I have realized is how much community influences my faith.

            For someone most in their element with a large group of people, I surprisingly didn’t realize how much community influences my faith until recently, while in quarantine. I have felt disconnected not only from friends and family outside of my home, but I have also felt disconnected from God. For the first many weeks of social isolation, I struggled with feelings of sadness, apathy, and longing. At first, I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way, but then it occurred to me that I was feeling separated from God—as if this time in quarantine not only brought me isolation from friends but also from God.

            Now, of course, this is not true. Deep down, I know that God has been right here next to me in my home. But why am I feeling so far from Him? I’ve been watching the live stream church services every Sunday morning, leaning in to hear from God. But … nothing. I struggle to bring myself to reach out to God in acts of worship and prayer. I feel as if I am trying to make a phone call and keep reaching God’s voicemail.

            As someone who has been a Chrisitan for the majority of my life, I have stumbled upon these dry seasons many times. Seasons full of too many questions and too few answers. But this season of ending my school year early, making my way home far too soon, and spending weeks in isolation has  seemed much more difficult than seasons in the past.

            I suppose it is the lack of community that plays a major role in this season. When I pause now and take the time (which I have plenty of) to look back, I realize that even in the hardest, most stagnant seasons I have always been surrounded by daily life that forced me to move forward. I have had people whom I love dearly constantly surrounding me, encouraging me to push forward and pursue God harder and deeper, even though I didn’t always want to. I write now, still in this place where I feel as though God is far, far away, almost as if He is socially distancing Himself from us just as we are from each other.

I’ve always been an optimist, so I write not out of fear that I’ll never overcome this dry moment —but rather in hope. I am taking this season one day at a time, and trying to learn even some small lessons from these hard days. I hope to never experience a global pandemic again, but I can’t help but stop now—so close to what seems to be the end of at least the worst of this—and find that community affects people’s faiths like it has affected mine these last few months all the time—with or without a global crisis.

            People are separated from their loved ones all the time in what we all would consider to be “normal life.” Whether it comes because of physical distance, spiritual transformation, political discord, or any other type of separation, community is something we constantly yearn for, even (maybe especially) when it’s prevented by distance. It doesn’t always take everyone being shut inside their homes to encounter a loss of community. Even the most introverted person finds themselves losing a beloved community from time to time.

            So the question that I have been wrestling with over the past few months (and still am asking as I sit here at home) is what I ought to do both now—as I suffer from a physical lack of community—as well as in the next season—when I find myself far from a community that I feel I need in order to move forward. Though I am not entirely convinced that I have totally figured this out yet, I believe that the answer starts by taking one step at a time.

            Taking a season one step at a time is a lesson that God has been teaching me over the past year, and I still struggle to accept the terms and conditions He has added to this solution. It takes too long. Why can’t I find the answers today? Why can’t I wake up tomorrow and just be done with all of this? I asked God these questions yesterday. Why must I feel so distant from Christ as I watch people during this time whose spiritual lives have never been better?

            Community is something that comes in all forms for every different person in the world. And every person finds themselves at times to be lacking the community they need during the seasons they need that support the most. While I am still learning how to go about moving forward in this season where I don’t have the weekly gatherings, one on one meetings, small group evenings, and days spent with friends and mentors, I am choosing to take one step at a time. Day by day, I try to use the time I have to enjoy whatever I am doing. I don’t always find that I want to engage Scripture or prayer like I sometimes feel I ought to be doing, but I am finding that I still am encountering the joy of the Lord in all things—in reading, baking, singing, writing, sleeping, and even binge-watching another series. Perhaps God is participating in social distancing here with me.

            I long for the day when I get to gather with a congregation, when I get to drive to a coffee shop and spend hours talking with a trusted friend, and when I get to do so many other things in community. But for now, I am focusing on the next step in front of me. Perhaps someday I’ll find myself needing this reminder again. While I don’t understand why on earth it’s taking so long to reach the end of the difficult season, I am being given the endurance to keep moving forward in each moment by God who, however silent or far away He seems, is walking each step with me.

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Aynsley Vermilya

Aynsley Vermilya

Aynsley Vermilya is from Marion, IN and is currently studying at Indiana Wesleyan University, majoring in Christian Ministries with a minor in Theatre. She is a part of the university’s Theatre Guild as well as the University Chorale. Aynsley has been attending College Wesleyan Church for the past 14 years where she is a part of College/Young Adult Ministries as well as the Worship Arts team. Despite not knowing where God will lead her after she graduates college, Aynsley is confident that God is going to use her interests and passions which include storytelling, cultivating community, creating music, traveling, art, and writing to serve the Kingdom of Heaven and reach others.

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