It’s been wryly noted that we suddenly have become experts in virology and epidemiology. Two years ago many of us didn’t even know that epidemiology existed. Today, we use terms like “R rate” freely and talk confidently about the impact of this or that variant and the efficacy of different NPIs.
Similarly, I remember at the start of the pandemic how many of bloggers wrote about the need to stay in lane, follow the science and allow the experts to advise. Of course, we might all have our opinions on what to do but we were not the people who had spent years studying such things.
However, I want to suggest that like it or not, quite a lot of us, whilst not becoming expetts have had to engage with and become knowledgeable about the subject area. That’s because each week we have to make decisions. We have to engage. This is particularly true about workplace managers, pastors and head-teachers. I’m sure there are others too.
Why did I as a pastor have to get to grips with what was going on with the pandemic, what the science behind it was and what data and studies were telling me. Well, as the government were making weekly and at times decisions, it wasn’t so simple as “Here are strict instructions on what you must stick to in a kind of ‘join the dots puzzle’ fashion. Sometimes there were strict rules but there were also exceptions, for example as a frontline worker, I could make essential visits, sometimes there was advice or guidance with some leeway and sometimes there were occasions when different sources of scientific advice were in conflict.
At different times, I had to consider how we would respond to a situation. The most obvious occasions were when restrictions were lifted on churches and when new restrictions were imposed on most institutions but not on churches. Church leaders have had to decide whether or not to reopen or to close again. Those decisions have not been easy. Then there were times when people claiming to speak as Christians and seeking to influence other Christians confidently denounced measures as unlawful (in God’s eyes) and unnecessary. We had to decide whether or not and how to respond.
Another way that we had to act and respond arose because of our position. Pastors and other community leaders were able to see first hand how the pandemic and how the unintended side affects of lockdowns were affecting people on the ground in our communities. There have been times when the decision we had to make was whether we should challenge and speak up on the matter.
What we were discovering was that we did need to be informed and did need to get up to speed on something that wasn’t naturally part of our expertise and something that we didn’t get taught at Bible College. I’m writing primarily for fellow pastors and for potential pastors today. Whilst our primary, central role is to teach God’s Word, to provide spiritual food and spiritual protection for the flock, in order to do that role well, we need more than Bible handling training. We are going to apply God’s Word to lots and lots of issues and situations. This means we need to be informed about those matters too.