Covid Commandment Lessons
It was the Church of Our Savior in Manhattan’s Chinatown that taught me the second Great Commandment. What is ironic is that I honestly thought I didn’t need to learn more: I know the Great Commandments—in 40 years of ordination I have preached on them, considered them, and done my best to apply them. They were an abstract rule of life: love God, love others, love self (guiltily). Now they are no longer abstract.
So, what happened? I came to the Church of Our Savior during that pivotal time, “Covid Year One.”
First came the shock of March 15, 2020: the final in-person service for a long, long while. Then, as we made our way through Covid Year One, there was a deep concern for each other, a fear for each other, sympathy for hard times that others were going through. Because of all those things, a huge tidal wave of compassion grew.
And so, I witnessed a change. I saw what had been a friendly church now become a church of deep love.
This was manifested in several ways. For instance, during this anxious time I saw people give each other understanding, cut each other slack. I saw people commit to each other. Parishioners, on their own, decided that everyone would get a call or an email or a letter or a joke or a picture on WhatsApp. They decided that during this time of physical separation every person in the parish would know that spiritually we were together even more than before.
They became unshakable in compassion.
All these reactions taught me something I had not known about the second Great Commandment. I learned that going together through hard times melts the separation that we tend to feel otherwise: that compassion grows. That is what I learned during Covid Year One.
Then, relentlessly, Covid extended into Year Two. I saw people who had been strained beyond capacity, and who were tired and stretched to the breaking point, work to make worship and programs return to the way things had been before the worry of Covid and before the loss of stamina. Without having a chance to take a breath, people stepped up to the plate to bring “normal” back.
Witnessing this courageous effort taught me something crucial. I learned that the second Great Commandment teaches about living during Covid Year Two as well.
This is what it says in my mind. It says that we must love ourselves just as much as we loved others during Covid Year One.
All of us are survivors of a treacherous year. Because of this, it is essential that
we love ourselves with as much intention as we loved others in Covid Year One — with patience and fun and compassion. We really must love ourselves as we love others.
I offer this to all of us—and I am grateful to the beloved Church of Our Savior for teaching me this on such a heart level that I will never lose it.