Pamplin Media Group – FAITH: Restoring life to others as one restores life to oneself

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With less of our lives filled with kindness and joy over the past two years, has the associated isolation and withdrawal reduced our emotional and spiritual bandwidth?

“Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:4

When the white-paneled van pulled into our parking lot last week, I knew I had work to do as another 70 boxes of food had arrived at Prineville Presbyterian Church (PPC). The Department of Health’s weekly mobile immunization clinic uses our space and is one of many local groups and organizations that PPC hosts. Food boxes are made available to those coming for COVID testing and vaccinations.

Boxes of food are also being sent to Juniper Canyon to be distributed in partnership with a church there, along with some also donated to the Latino Community Association as we hope to further develop this partnership. And some of the PPC folks bring boxes to families that they know will find them useful. (A rough estimate put us over 325 (?) boxes in grateful hands).

So, leaving my desk job aside, I went out to help unload the van. When I started to physically handle the boxes, it awakened in me the awareness to put a couple aside for people I know who find them very useful – good people who have experienced dramatic changes in their circumstances, and these changes have left them with instability in their lives.

This “wake-up call” sparked some thinking in a recent Gallup poll.

“Belief in God in the United States drops to 81%, a new low.” Gallup first posed the poll question, “Do you believe in God?” twice in the mid-1940s, and twice in the 1950s and 1960s. Then 98% said they believed in God. When Gallup asked the question again in 2011, 92% said they believed in God, and now we’re at 81%.

While the decreasing percentages are concerning, the study points out, “The vast majority of Americans believe in God…that means they believe a higher power hears prayers and may or may not intervene.”

And while belief in God has declined in recent years, Gallup has documented larger declines in church attendance, church membership and trust in organized religion, suggesting that the practice of religious faith could change more than basic faith in God.

Part of this decline is due to the media focusing on churches that define themselves by who they stand apart, rather than showing those churches reflecting Jesus’ desire to welcome and those with whom Jesus calls to work.

As informative as the poll was, it would have been helpful for Gallup to consider how the pandemic fits into all of this.

Lacking the scientific sophistication of Gallup’s resources, and instead of listening to many people’s thoughts on the impacts of the pandemic, it raises the question of what has the pandemic done to our spiritual and emotional bandwidth?

Before COVID, many of us benefited from greater stability, allowing this bandwidth to expand in depth. After the pandemic, is our spiritual and emotional bandwidth still as wide and/or deep? With less of our lives filled with kindness and joy over the past two years, has the resulting isolation and withdrawal reduced our emotional and spiritual bandwidth? Where it looked like a full, round ball, did the pandemic actually let the air out – leaving the ball much smaller? Or in some cases it has been completely deflated and just sits there flat and limp?

These questions and observations offer insight into rebuilding a belief in God and restoring the church.

It is said that those who are unaware of the suffering around them end up experiencing the same isolation themselves; which means the quick fix comes as we do those things that awaken our awareness of others and their needs. The more we restore our spiritual and emotional bandwidth, and the more we do it together, the better we rebuild communities of faith.

Mike Wilson is the pastor of Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.


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