As we enter into our sixth month of social isolation and no real end to the Coronavirus infections, we are seeing the more long-term effects of this devastating disease. Secondary, yet just as worrisome, are the anxiety and depression that is settling in among our society. It is easy to understand why this is happening: with no immediate end-in-sight of the virus itself, being cut off from loved ones and friends, and the continuous worry that “I be next” leads invariably to depression and anxiousness.
Although anxiety and depression are elevated across our demographics, I am especially concerned about our young people, who are suffering at a higher rate than the general public. Whereas, nationally, almost 41% of people reported symptoms of general depression, up to 30% more of our younger people are suffering. To quote the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 5, 2020):
For example, nearly three in four California respondents between
18 and 29 reported “not being able to stop or control worrying” for at least
several of the previous seven days. And 71% reported feeling “down, depressed or helpless” during that time
This makes me realize psychologically how vulnerable this age group is to the pandemic, and even though statistically, they are not as susceptible to dying from COVID-19, they are still dramatically affected by its wrath.
I have been harping on our annual conference and each of our churches, clergy and laity to innovate and experiment on new ways of being the church during this time, and this might provide one need that we can address. How can we as the church be a source of inspiration and hope for our young people, and all of our people? Can we provide a relevant spiritual experience that will uplift and lighten people’s anxiety? Can we bring people together virtually in order to address these serious psychological needs?
What is key for us now is simply to try out new things: programs, experiments, prototypes. We don’t have to overthink this, or plan excessively, or spend a lot of money. Just do it! We have such key needs all around us, and we must respond proactively in order to be relevant and helpful in the midst of the pandemic. I want everyone to try one thing to address this psychological trauma that we are facing.
Please report to all of us what you have come up with and what the results have been. We have set up a communication tool for this very purpose, and I would like to see this humming with activity. We are calling it the “Cal-Pac Circle,” and, over the next few days, we will be sending out invitations by email to create an account and participate in the conversation. (If you receive my emails sent from the Conference, then you will receive an invitation.)
For inspiration this week, Rev. James Dollins (Sr. Minister at Anaheim UMC) wrote a poem following some dark days and upon seeing a bird flying overhead at his home. Enjoy!
Learning to Fly
Whenever possible, fly.
Touch the ground as little as you can.
Some of life’s puzzles needn’t be solved;
they’re better viewed from high in the sky.
Follow a bird,
try to keep pace.
Be reluctant to be grounded,
or mired in regret.
Free yourself of heavy self-pity, complaint, and resentment,
and when given the choice, choose to fly.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop