By Koh Chao Rui (Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church)
The onslaught of COVID-19 swept the world and the Church by storm – or so it seemed. For probably the longest period in the 21st century, Christians in Singapore were not able to congregate physically in the Church for corporate worship. In-house member care group meetings, seniors and youth fellowship, children’s Sunday school sessions, just to name a handful, were inevitably impacted. Never would one have imagined the potency such a micro-organism that evades the naked eye would have on humanity – not one across the social strata is unscathed.
The Church in Singapore, by the grace of God, fought resolutely and resourcefully in the face of this callous virus. By the time of this writing, most Churches have ridden on the wave of technology to leverage on digital connectivity for her members. Our worship services are being streamed online and cell group meetings have taken to video-conferencing platforms. Denominational taskforces convene to deliberate theological and pastoral care issues ranging from Holy Communion to funeral services, rolling out unprecedented protocols in good faith. While there exist challenges in ministering to all members, particularly the socially isolated or the less tech-savvy, one can by and large affirm that the Church in Singapore has risen to the occasion promptly to ensure “business” continuity for her members.
In as much as the Church looks inward for her members, the Church has a twin mission to look outward for the community both on our local shores and beyond. “Love your neighbour” is no stranger to us (Mt 22:39, Mk 12:31). In unparalleled times like this, especially when centralized institutional outreach efforts have been curtailed, it calls for Christians to be the instrument of outreach and love at an individual level, with greater intentionality.
So, who are our neighbours? Apart from our immediate family members who reside in the same household, these may be residents in the same physical precinct. Throw the stone further down the road, we have our frequented hawker stall and grocery shop owners. Next in line can be our coursemates, colleagues, relatives, friends and hobby "kakis". Not forgetting the wider circle of the homeless, the migrant workers in dormitories and the poor and needy in impoverished nations (Mt 25:40).
Whoever the neighbour we can identify, some of whom may be elderly, handicapped, frontline workers, undergoing retrenchment, needing to tend to young or school-going children while tele-commuting, we can ask ourselves this question: how can we as an individual be a good neighbour and witness (Lk 10:27)?
We can ask God to show us, that with the time, talents and treasures He has bestowed upon each of us, the ways we can be His channel of love to our neighbours. For some, it may mean making a phone call or sending WhatsApp messages to those socially isolated to offer emotional support. Helping our elderly buy necessities may sound feasible for some. Others may use their skills to bless the community, such as sewing masks for migrant workers. If you are an employer, would you consider making special provisions for your employees to allay financial concerns? We hear of people who volunteer and donate to charitable causes, as well as render financial aid to family members and friends to tide through this season. Upholding our neighbours in prayers can form our daily discipline (1 Thess 5:17).
The pandemic outbreak may have crippled the economy but certainly not immobilised our love for one another, both towards our fellow believers and neighbours. You and I can bring forth showers of love which transcend geographical boundaries and impact lives without the four walls of our homes and the confines of our gadget screen. So much so that after this virus tempest, our neighbours will not only remember the storm, but all the more fondly recall you who had helped them weather it, and give glory to God (Mt 5:16). In this vein, the Church, collectively as individuals, through you and I - a small deed and a little step at a time - will be the epitome of "Being A Good Neighbour".