In W.P. Kinsella's novel, Shoeless Joe, which was later made into the movie "Field of Dreams" an Iowa farmer is told to convert his cornfield into a baseball stadium. He is told, "Build it and they will come." I don't know why but this phrase sort of stuck with me with all the news, fear, panic, and hysteria that has come with the COVID 19 virus. Last week, soccer matches in Italy and Spain were played to empty stadiums in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Earlier this week the NCAA Basketball tournament and the San Jose Sharks NHL team announced that they would play games to empty stadiums and arenas. By Thursday this week, various sporting events had postponed or cancelled their seasons: from the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, the World Figure Skating Championships, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, etc. Across many parts of Europe and North America, schools are being closed for the next few weeks. The bright lights of Broadway have gone dark. Travel restrictions are being imposed. Alberta like many jurisdictions has banned any public event, with a few minor exceptions, of over 250 people. People have been asked to separate and if they are ill they have been told to isolate. It is something that has not happened since the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak (maybe those who are going to be around in 2121 should worry- 1919, 2020, 2121?). Whatever, right now is a scary time.
Right now the virus is really quite small in terms of the human population. There have been about 125,000 infections in a world wide population of 7.5 billion or in other words 0.0016667 per cent of the population has been infected. It does seem so small. Of course to look at the virus like that is very short sighted. Each day the number of infections grow. Also we are told that many people don't know that they have the virus and that in some countries, like the United States, there are not enough testing facilities to test those who are sick and because of no national health coverage many people can't financially afford to get tested or can't financially afford to be off work if they are sick. So the number of sick people might be actually much higher.
For those of us living in small towns, we might feel that this is a big city problem. COVID is found in Toronto, New York, Vancouver, Boston, or Seattle. It is not found here. Again this is short sighted. People travel. People from small towns go on holidays, go on cruises, go on business trips. Our world has become much too small to think that a problem over there does not effect us.
I am not writing this piece out of fear or panic. I am not rushing out to buy 200 rolls of toilet paper (before the panic buying, we bought 24 rolls in February and have enough till about May thank you very much). However, I also don't plan to go around saying that it can't happen to me (I am not Donald Trump). I think it is imperative that as a leader of a church community that we need to make sound policies about what to do in the event of this outbreak or future viruses, for blizzards, for floods, for fires, in the eventuality of the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup, we need to have plans in place of how we will operate. We need to make good decisions about how we can carry out activities in newer ways. What activities are too risky? How can we continue to ensure the safety of our congregants and members of the wider community? Now is the time not to panic. Neither is it a time to live in denial and say it can't get me. Now is the time to talk about what we do when this or another disaster strikes. Be healthy and be safe. Blessings.