Pastoral Letter in Response to the Noval Coronavirus
By Rev Dr Sung-che Lam
The Methodist Church, Hong Kong
THE METHODIST CHURCH, HONG KONG
14 Conference Office: 14/F Wesleyan House, 271 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2528 0186
Fax: (852) 2866 1879 Website: E-mail:
20th February 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Peace be with you!
The epidemic continues, and experts opine that it will reach its climax in the coming two to three weeks. We could never imagine that in just one and a half months, Hong Kong has been gripped by economic recession and many are living in panic. To protect themselves, people are looking for masks. They do not have confidence in the Government to unite the people to battle the novel coronavirus nor the competence to bring our society out of the quandary. The mentality to rescue themselves has resulted in people scrambling for masks, tissue paper, rice and noodles all reflecting the fear and anxiety uppermost in the minds of the population.
I believe that every day, the paramount concerns of many people are the latest development of the epidemic, ways to minimize infection and the supply of various daily necessities. Of course some are worried that they may lose their jobs. When most people are anxious, do we Christians who believe that God is with us lead a different life because of our faith? The Gospels record that when Jesus crossed the Sea of the Galilee with his 12 disciples, the ship was almost covered by waves because there was a great storm with a strong wind. The disciples were very frightened and they screamed. Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm (Mt 8:23-27). As we face these seemingly perilous days, we should try to lead our lives with faith, and as Christians, we should learn to live out faith, hope and love that stem from the fact that God is with us. In this difficult time, I hope to share with brothers and sisters and encourage one another through this pastoral letter.
1. In view of the mounting epidemic, we need to have steadfast confidence in the promises of the Bible. The Bible tells us that “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood' (Ps 29:10a). We know for sure that everything is still in His control. Not only that, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up;' (Ps 68:19a); God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1b). He loves us deeply, so much so that even the hairs of our head are all counted. (Mt 10:30). So, when we are in difficulty and anxiety, ‘Cast all our anxiety on him” (1 Pet 5:7a), and like a weaned child with its mother, calmed and quieted our soul (Ps 131:2a) and to receive the heavenly peace given to us by Jesus Christ. (Jn 14:27). When we hold fast to our faith that embodies all these promises, we can still see brightness and hope with our spiritual eye despite this critical epidemic. We will see His protection, help, care, guidance and supply, thereby leading a life that is filled with peace and joy. We could therefore like angels warm the hearts of the distressed with the love and peace of our Lord. We can also find and care for the poor, the weak and those who are in need of special care during this epidemic.
2. We have to be humble and pray earnestly. This is also what we should do during Lent. The epidemic helps us realize how vulnerable we are, and we should therefore learn to be humble. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We live because of the grace of our Lord. So, we should never be proud, thinking ourselves as amazing and omnipotent. When we realize that every day, our life is threatened by a minute virus and bacteria which are just 1/10,000,000m the size of us, we will marvel and give thanks for the immune system that God has created, and have great respect for the selfless love and dedication of the medical staff. Facing the invisible virus and bacteria which are life-threatening enemies, we are not sure that we could win. Besides relying on the vaccination to be developed by scientists, we can only do our best in epidemic prevention work and try not to be infected, boost our immune system and pray for our Lord's mercy and help.
During this Lent when the epidemic has become widespread, we have to pray fervently and believe that our Lord who created the heaven and the earth will listen to prayers that are in accordance with His Will. “Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart' (Ps 37:4b). But this does not mean that things will happen at the time and in the manner we have prayed for. We learn to co-work with our Lord in our prayers, practice our faith and wait in silence. We should also reflect on ourselves and on society, learn to listen and repent, and strive for individual and social renewal. We strongly believe that our prayers will bring healing and change to our world that has been shattered by the epidemic. Intercession is the most unique and best service Christians could give to society, so let us all accept the invitation of our Lord Jesus Christ and join in the rank of fervent praying (Lk 18:1b).
3. As the epidemic continues, we are crossing the river in the same boat and should watch over and love one another. Our Church life has been immensely affected. We have almost suspended all fellowships and activities and reduced the number of services. Some local churches have actually stopped all services because of special circumstances. But all these should not affect our love in Christ. May we all try our best to care for brothers and sisters who are in need and have not been coming to Church, help them face the difficulties and address their needs, and inform pastoral workers when necessary so that special pastoral care could be rendered. The Book of the Hebrews records a group of people who live in faith and they bear witness even in huge hardship. They are our examples. When we are threatened by danger and in great fear, often we have to choose between light and darkness.
If we can live out the bright side of our humanity, we could overcome the natural disaster” in one heart thereby minimizing the harm it may bring. But if we live out the dark side of humanity, the “natural disaster” will develop into a devastating human disaster. It is sad to know that in this ordeal, some officials with the aim of maintaining stability did not reveal all the truth in a timely manner and even suppressed freedom of speech such that the world has to pay heavy costs. Today, facing the epidemic, do we choose to live out the bright side of humanity or the dark side? When masks and sanitizing agents are lacking, we see greedy merchants seizing the opportunity to make unscrupulous profits, but there are more who choose to help others who are in need. For the Hong Kong people who were stranded in Hubei and Japan and are being repatriated to the territory for quarantine, probably because Government has not communicated or explained its policy effectively, and probably because of the general fear of getting infected, many Hong Kong people have adopted a negative and even hostile attitude. Some have even refused to let them undergo quarantine in their districts.
However, experts have advised that the chance of virus transmission by way of air is low. As such, quarantine facilities far from local inhabitants should not pose high risks. We invite brothers and sisters to see the stranded people as family members and support measures to help them return to Hong Kong as soon as possible; and to think rationally as to how to provide quarantine facilities that will ensure that the health of inhabitants in the vicinity will not be affected. At this critical time, it is hoped that there will be more solidarity and compassion and less accusation and indifference.
What Christians face in life are the same as non-Christians, but Christians having the presence of God should lead a life filled with joy, peace, courage and love. And we need to learn, even at these difficult and nerve-racking moments, to serve our Lord, to witness the great love of Jesus and the almighty power of the Gospel, to live as light and salt, and to bring warmth, hope and blessings to others, particularly the needy. Let us pray hard together that the epidemic will subside soon, and that in the process, we experience what God wants us to learn what we cannot learn in the ordinary days. May we all grow in faith and love one another more such that after the epidemic, our Church is stronger and has the insight and stamina to embrace new challenges and attempt greater heights. God Bless!
Yours sincerely in Christ
Sung-che Lam (Rev Dr)
President: The Revd Dr Sung-che Lam; Vice-President: Dr Raymond Chen; Secretary: The Revd Maria Lau; Treasurer: Mr Richard Tsang; General Secretary: Mrs Katherine Ng; Head of the Missions & Pastoral Care Division: The Revd Winnie Ho; Head of the School Education Division: The Revd Paul Kan; Head of the Social Services Division: The Revd Tim Lam; Head of the Laity Training Division: The Revd Maria Lau