The Fatigue of the Pandemic

Dr. Erika Hendrix | November 16th, 2020
Erika Hendrix

Erika Hendrix

On March 11th, 2020, the world was placed on a mandated lockdown and given instruction to social distance six feet apart to combat the spread of the virus that had no name. For the first time in my life the world and the church were left standing still with no instructions on what to do and what direction to move in. I quote Helen Keller who was an American Author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Helen is known by one of her statements, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

I must admit and many others as well we did not see this pandemic coming. We were preparing for the Year of 20/20, the Year of Focus, but we were not preparing on how to live during one of the hardest pandemics this world has encountered in my lifetime. At the onset I asked myself the question how to preach or minister to people that you were used to seeing in person and now we have resulted in worshipping virtually. The inescapable had taken place and we did not have a template to follow. You can compare it to getting a new position, with no job description and you are told make it up as you go along. We no longer had the proclivity to choose; we had to adjust to a new norm of what we now know is the, “Virtual Worship Experience.”

For the first time in history the black church has been faced with the greatest crisis that affects not only its membership but has impacted the world. The next layer that the church must contend with is not having the ability to interact, gather, fellowship and a place to worship. The world has felt this pandemic socially, politically, culturally and economically. I know that it is a faith walk to stay open, but how do we figure out to stay connected virtually and not lose members. This was an unforeseen shadowing that has grappled America to its core and has left even the medical scientist baffled by an unknown virus that has not slowed down but has progressed faster than we have expected.

The challenge that many churches had faced was the lack of a social media platform. So, overnight whether you knew it or not if you church was online or had a social media presence you became global overnight. That became the resounding theme and it also became a burden to stay relevant while we were in a stay at home mandate. Many people became perplexed and withdrawn because they had relied so much on a physical location, they did not know how to shift beyond the four walls. A point of transparency I struggled to preach and teach from home, because I felt that I would not be effective in my delivery. I did not have the amenities that I would have at church, at home. So, I went around and around in my head saying, “Lord how is this going to work?” God graciously provided a closed platform of group therapy for Pastors and Preachers for us to vent and express our emotions over the impact that this virus was having on us, how to deal with the loss of a loved one, church members, and the loss of the people whom we minister to each week.

The fatigue of the pandemic was taking a toll on me mentally because I was trying to fit a circle inside of a box, instead of thinking outside of the box. Once I figured out that I had to change my mindset and my space of preaching I began to make my space conducive for me to minister each week. I invested in podiums, high back chairs, cameras, teleprompter, ring lights, etc. to assist me in sermon delivery.

The fatigue coupled with health issues I was battling began to wear on me physically and mentally, but my nature as a person was to keep pushing and I could not let the people see me sweat. So, I gave it to the people each week and I made sure I was present mentally and physically attentive to whom and how I ministered the word of God. The fatigue that I was experiencing was the lack of sleep, heavy exertion, racing on the mind, unhealthy eating habits, slowness, headaches and moodiness. I know many of you may be thinking why I am telling you about my experience, I want whoever reads this article especially leaders that it is okay to be human and need support.

I am reminded that Peter had Jesus’ support and confidence that he could walk on water, but the moment he felt that he could support himself he started to sink. Sinking is not a sign of giving up, but you cannot rely on your own ability to walk this out without God’s divine intervention. It became a sign that many Pastors, Preachers and leaders lacked the confidence to allow themselves self-care and to provide Pastoral Care to those who needed it. Also, how can I fit it in a vacation and leave the people without a preacher? I felt closed in and at times smothered by the heavy assignment to carry a burden and blessing at the same time. I realized that self-care had to be a part in how I have survived to this point.

I have preached for twenty-six weeks three times a week non-stop. As the Executive Pastor of Overcoming Deliverance Center our Pastor contracted the virus in March and she had It for almost sixty days. So, not only was I carrying the church along with our Bishop-Elect Charlie Watson my role reversed, and I became the Pastor to carry the church on as usual.

I know by now you may be wondering if I am still carrying the assignment I was called to do twenty-five years ago and the answer is, Yes. I believe that transparency is the catalyst and the driving norm for discipleship in 2020. I often used this as an example we are so busy gathering numbers for membership and we forsake their soul. I reminded of one of my favorite parables:

John 4 (Message Bible)
4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days would not be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
11-12 The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
13-14 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

This is the oasis of the Pandemic known at COVID-19 was the bull that was let out of the gate with just a horn. The gate in this text is the well and he woman is the bull needing to be free, but she needs a sign; and Jesus was the living water the refresher and there was a need to draw her in for a drink, so she thought of living water, but Jesus was setting the opportunity and the encounter to give her spiritual water. How many of us during this Pandemic sought after spiritual water instead of material gain to move beyond the fatigue of the Pandemic? The irony of this text is she made some observations: Jesus didn’t have a bucket, the well was deep and what was his plan to get it, and then she had the audacity to ask was he better than Jacob and his sons who dug the well and left it for the Samaritans. To some this would have been an insult, but for Jesus it was an opportunity. What I am saying Jesus gave us an opportunity during this pandemic to redo, make over, re-invest, re-assign those who were willing to dig deep wells. A well is a hole that is heaved with great effort to provide a place for the people to draw from it. As we look further into this text it never tells us where the water came from once the well was dug. I believe it was the positioning of the well and the direction in which the water was flowing.

Do miss use your authority to redirect the flow to make it fit into your box. The glass ceiling no longer exists, it is now open season to build a virtual community that may not never come to our churches, but will follow you, share and like with those in their close circle. There is a circle to life in which we must follow, and it resonates with two sets of people that we are leading traditional and non-traditional attendees.

It is just like driving a car for the first time. They are experienced drivers and new licensees. They both had to learn to drive the same way by following the road signs and adhering to the traffic laws and using caution while driving. The main factor is they were not able to operate a motor vehicle until we were able to pass the driver’s education writing exam and driver’s exam; and this could only be obtained by a person who had experience in teaching us the basic elements of driving. Unfortunately, you can be experienced and well learned, but millions have lost their lives and doubt has set in. Are we going to come out of this with no more casualties?

How to overcome fatigue during this pandemic:
1. Examine who is around you. Have you contracted doubt and fear in which you live by that we will not come out of this pandemic?
2. Lay your hands on yourself and declare victory over your mind, body and soul.
3. Practice self-care: running, walking, riding a bike, journaling, taking a mini vacation in your city just to get out of your environment.
4. Circles are meant to be occupied, not empty, so fill your circle with people you can trust during a moment of transparency.
5. The promise Jesus made us that he would be with us to the very end of the world.

In conclusion we are called to be world changers who can change the game. Life is a monopoly depending on what space you land on you can win or lose, but we all have a chance to start over again. COVID-19 has impacted our churches in more ways than we can even imagine, there will be effects of this pandemic long after history has been printed digitally. Rev. Victor J. Grigsby made a profound statement, “But, even when we were physically distanced, we were still socially connected. The vocabulary and terminology now threaten the very fiber of our community. We need each other. We’ve always needed each other.” I hope and dream that this pandemic has made families stronger, strengthened communities and restored the real essence of who the church is. We must find a balance that draws people and walk each day at a time and use best possible health practices by wearing your mask, washing your hands and practicing social distancing. It is the culmination of reaching the pivotal and climatic point for forwarding thinking

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