Promoting Life Amid COVID-19: A Reflection from the Puerto Rico Council of Churches
Greetings and blessings,
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and will make a path for his steps.
Psalm 85:8-13 (NRSV)
Prophetic words? For those who interpret the Bible in a literal way, it is feasible to understand those words as such. For those of us who read the Bible with an evangelical and different set of eyes, we give it a compassionate reading. Because we know that God is love, but deep and tender love, one that is firm and full of hope.
As Protestant believers, we listen to the Word with great respect, reading how God expects us to act, the call he makes, to tell the truth, seek peace, and understand the mistakes we make. God gives us the strength of humility to accept mistakes, to overcome them, and to improve the quality of life.
Today, we continue being the Church amid situations like storms, COVID-19, earthquakes, corruption, floods, social unrest, etc. We live through these, we suffer through them, but as Church, we act because we commit with life. We know these processes are not perfect, but we always do our best to achieve the quality of life. That is why we respect the dignity of the other person, defending their rights, and accompany them; we do not lead, in their walk.
We continue to see how COVID-19 continues to ravage society, more positive tests, more hospitalizations, etc., we know that information very well. We look at the data given to us by Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, as well as other analyses provided by professionals and civil society organizations. We see an increase in COVID-19 cases. One of the factors is that physical distancing has become flexible, and there are more family gatherings, community activities, meetings with friends, etc. It is our position that we are all co-responsible: Society + Companies/Institutions + Government. No sector is more or less responsible. It is the sum of all those responsibilities. The contradictions of Executive Orders by the Interim Governor create another situation: you cannot go out on Sunday, but are “churches” excluded? That caused confusion, and it was news.
As the Puerto Rico Council of Churches, we are committed to the promotion of life. Our denominations make their decisions, considering all the factors, but above all, the appreciation for life. There are still dozens of congregations that have not opened their facilities because they estimate that it is not yet time. Prudence and caution make us a Church amid all that is happening. They take all the assurances, educate, inform, and train volunteers to protect life.
We are at the beginning of a “new” school year. Our appeal to families is to take care of children and youth. To the persons who work in the Department of Education and Private Education Sector, think of taking care of the people first. Let us continue to create new ways for quality education. We can “reinvent ourselves.” There are community alternatives to address the situation. We have the creativity and the willingness to do so. As Church, we are accompanying and encouraging them because we have not lost our North/South, who is Jesus, the Master par excellence.
We have not ceased to be Church; on the contrary, we have strengthened ourselves. During this time, we have continued to serve communities, we have brought them food, we transport them, and we are now helping families affected by flooding. We have not forgotten the Southwest area; we are still present. We are prepared to help families in need and are aware of their spiritual health, as well as mental health. We are yet organized to create structures that make us present in the community. We cooperate with the government in every way possible and where we are able. When we must give a message, we do it clearly and firmly.
Let us ask God to give us the capacity to continue making decisions where people come first. May we have a daily commitment to accompany the people in their just claims and defend their rights. We continue to be present because we do not cease to be Church.
The Reverend Felipe Lozada-Montañez
Bishop Emeritus, Caribbean Lutheran Synod
President, Puerto Rico Council of Churches