Clergy in the Trenches of an Unforgiving War
Rev. David Fleenor stood in the New York City morgue, looking at the body of someone’s mother. As a chaplain for Mount Sinai Hospital, death was always a part of his job. But not like this. Not for so many. Holding a telephone to his ear, he tried to soothe the son, telling his mom all the things the young man wished he could say in person. “I’m sorry I can’t be there. I love you.” But even now, as the images of heartbreak pile up in his mind, he calls it a privilege to be the hurting city’s proxy.
Like doctors and nurses, Rev. Fleenor has been on the front lines of the virus for weeks. In normal times, he says, “One of the big challenges in chaplaincy under non-pandemic circumstances is how do we get to the neediest patients first?” Now, with the crisis claiming thousands of lives a day, there’s “no hospital in America that has enough chaplains.” Which is why, he insists, every one of them is essential.
Rabbi Kara Tav understands all too well. Her Facebook feed has been full of the suffering she’s seen as the manager of spiritual care services at another hospital in New York City. She struggles to keep it together most days, saying the virus has made her job a living hell. “Normally my job is to listen, to comfort, to pray for healing. Now my job is to pray for a swift and merciful death for most of my patients. I hold weeping, sweaty-faced nurses through gloves and masks, to whom I promise their work is meaningful and changing lives. I promise them that it’s okay to feel bone-tired, that everyone’s living with nightmares that they’re going to get sick. I have spent this morning making condolence calls (30 deaths over the weekend. We normally have five).”
Rabbi Tav and Rev. Fleenor have been lucky. They both work at hospitals that consider their positions “critical.” Until last week, not all of them could. Despite the fact that hundreds of chaplains have been calling into hospitals and volunteering their services, a lot of health care facilities were still confused about who could and couldn’t be walking the hallways during the crisis.
It’s an issue FRC took up privately with the Trump administration, first with the Department of Homeland Security — and later with Vice President Mike Pence. If we take clergy into battle, I urged, then we should be taking them into this one. More than ever, America needs its spiritual leaders. In situations as dire as this, we need clergy to be treated like first responders — moving and ministering on the front lines. The vice president promised to look into it, and we’re happy to announce — he did. Last week, FRC was grateful to see that DHS’s definitive list of personnel for federal agencies now includes “clergy for essential support.”
That’s a game-changer — not just for the patients and the parents and the dying, but for maxed-out hospital workers who are struggling to take care of everyone else. Deep down, every one of them needs to know: they’re not alone. It’s the closest thing to war many of them will ever see. “Pray for us," one nurse says as she walks by the chaplain every morning. "Pray that we make it through the day.”
“It reminds me so much of the time I spent in Desert Storm,” said Chaplain Rocky Walker, a 25-year Army veteran. “I’m closer to death now than I was on the very front lines of combat. It’s not natural to go racing toward someone or something that is trying to kill you. That’s what health care workers are doing every day when they get out of bed and come into the hospital.” Now, thanks to the Trump administration, they’ll at least have someone in the foxhole with them.
Originally published here.
‘Come as You Are, Just Stay in Your Car!’
“It’s not what I had in mind when I accepted a ‘higher’ calling,” Pastor Frank Carl joked to reporters about preaching from a 25-foot high lift in the parking lot. Like a lot of congregations, Ohio’s Genoa Church in Westerville, Ohio has had to think of creative ways to keep their ministry going — even if that means sitting in a passenger seat, not a pew. For people like Yolanda Blaze, that’s just fine. “It wasn’t just one person sitting in a house, watching a screen. There was that feeling again of having a family.”
Pastor Frank agrees. And while it takes some time to get used to preaching to windshields, he does get a chuckle out of the car honks replacing “Amen!” Not to mention, he told me on “Washington Watch,” some of his new four-legged converts. “I think our church is going to the dogs,” he laughed, because “I think we counted almost 50 to 60 dogs that were in the cars also.” But seriously, he said, the whole idea has just taken off. Magazines like Time have done feature stories on Genoa’s services, along with local and national news outlets. “This is the time for the church,” Pastor Frank insisted. “The turnout has been phenomenal,” he said in amazement. “And not just from our people, but from the whole community.”
By doing drive-in services, everyone is abiding by the social distancing. No one is being put at risk. But they’re all on location at the church, taking part in worship together. “And there’s affirmation in that,” Frank said. And, it turns out, blessing. Among the highlights at Genoa, he wanted people to know, is that people are being faithful. Rather than seeing giving plummet, he told us, the offerings are actually up as much as $15,000. Now, that might not be the response others are getting — and it’s certainly not the church’s motivation for gathering like this — but it’s encouraging.
“What I really love seeing, just like back in 2008 [with] the financial downturn, was how faithful the body of Christ was to the church and our offerings. And I know this can’t be the same everywhere, but I’m amazed at how faithful people are putting God first in an uncertain time like this.” It’s really a matter of church families feeling engaged and invigorated in ways they’ve never experienced before. Through ministry and these new ways of serving, they’re not sitting on the sidelines being caught up in anxiety and fear. They’re actually doing something.
“I think this is a way for people to have hope, to continue, and go on. There is great hope in the church and God.” And that’s a message that churches are going to be able to take to the country in unique Easter services that people will remember forever. In fact, a few weeks ago, I decided to reach out to some area pastors and see if they would join in a community Sunrise Drive-In Service on Easter Morning. If you’re in the Baton Rouge area, drive over and join us. The service will be held in the parking lot of the Central Football Stadium at 7:00 a.m. and will be broadcast on a local FM station. We will also take up a collection for the Central food bank to help families that are struggling.
Folks, there’s no limit to what the body of Christ can do when we stop looking at what we can’t do and start looking at what we can. For some ideas of what other pastors and congregations are doing, check out FRC.org/church and start planning your outside-the-box ministry!
Originally published here.
The Main Squeeze on Main Street
This is a bad week that could’ve been a whole lot worse. Try to remember that, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Americans. Heading into the darkest valley of the virus fight, the Californian wants people to know that as bleak as things look now, the country will get through this. And when we do, we’ll be stronger and more prepared because of it.
“The one thing you have to know,” he said, “is that if President Trump hadn’t taken those actions — like stopping planes coming [in] from China, it could be [a different story].” In the meantime, we just try to cope. “Look,” he conceded, “the virus is here. We did not invite it. We did not ask for it. But we will defeat it together.” Every day, McCarthy pointed out, we’re learning something new. We’re getting farther along. “After SARS,” he said by way of comparison, “it took us two years [to develop a treatment].” With coronavirus, he pointed out in amazement, “we’re already into a clinical trial.”
But as we go through this, McCarthy argued, “there are lessons we have to learn.” At the top of the list, he insists, America needs to think long and hard about its dealings with China. He shook his head, thinking about all of the decades the world let the communist regime monopolize the supply chain. As recently as January, “China [was] buying billions of masks,” then turning around and telling everyone the virus wasn’t contagious. Then there’s the control they have over the World Health Organization, McCarthy warned. “Now they have control over the personal protection equipment that our medical doctors need. They produce 50 percent there.”
And what’s happening now? They’re refusing to sell anything to countries who don’t agree to their conditions. “Had China not lied to us, 95 percent of this would never have happened. That’s what our [studies] actually told us.” When we turn the page on this catastrophic chapter in history, China shouldn’t be making our pharmaceuticals, our medical supplies — or frankly, any other product they can leverage over the U.S.
To America’s small business owners, McCarthy’s message is: Hang in there. For three years, we were operating from one of the strongest economies the country’s ever seen. Now, employers are swimming against a once-in-a-lifetime tide, desperately trying to keep their heads above water. And that’s not just bad news for small businesses. It’s bad news for all of us. We’re talking, the minority leader reminded everyone, about 47 percent of the workforce — 100 million people. “We’re going to have to get this country back up and running,” he said.
The CARES Act will help. Washington wants to get everyone back working again. “We will actually provide you a loan through your community bank,” McCarthy explained. It’s what he’s calling the Marshall Plan for Main Street. “If you take that money and you pay your employees — even if you laid them off, bring them back. You pay them. You pay your rent, you pay utilities. That’s no longer part of a loan. That’s a grant just given to you. So we’ll take care of you for the next two months, give you that bridge as we go across and get us through this… That way, we don’t fall off the cliff.”
It’s designed to keep the engine idling until we get to the other side. That way, our economy can take off a lot more quickly and, hopefully, get back to where it was sooner. “Perfect description. Just think of your car. You’re at a [red] light. When it’s green, you’ll have just enough energy to get going.” At the end of the day, Leader McCarthy said, this won’t last forever. “America has faced significant challenges before, and together we’ve gotten through them. Remember,” he said, “tough times don’t last. But tough people do.”
The Real Story behind David Benham’s Arrest
Targeted, surrounded, and arrested. Hear David Benham’s firsthand account of being cuffed outside a Charlotte abortion clinic — for what, even he isn’t sure. Being pro-life isn’t a crime, but it certainly sounds like one here.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.