Pandemic Ponderings of the Transitional Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

August 10, 2020

Dear friends,

Yesterday’s lectionary text from Matthew found the disciples exhausted in a boat that had been battered by wind and waves all night long. As I heard the text and listened to several excellent reflections on it, I was put in mind of New York Times writer, Jennifer Senior’s Aug 5th column entitled “Hitting a Pandemic Wall.” She writes, “Call it pandemic fatigue. Any label at this point would probably be too trivializing, belying what is in fact a far deeper problem. We are not, as a nation, all right.” She cited some figures:

  • Roughly one in 12 adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder last year at this time; now it’s more than one in three.
  • Last week the Kaiser Family Foundation released a tracking poll showing that for the first time, a majority of American adults – 53% believes that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.
  • That number climbs to 68% if you look solely at African Americans. The disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on Black lives and livelihoods – made possible by centuries of structural disparities, compounded by the corrosive psychological effect of everyday racism – is appearing starkly in our mental health data. Michelle Obama recently admitted to dealing with a low level depression. Said she, “I’m waking up in the middle of the night because I’m worrying about something or there’s this heaviness. Not just because of the quarantine but because of the racial strife. Part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest that has plagued this country since its birth.”
  • 36% of adults report that coronavirus-related worry is interfering with their sleep.
  • 18% say they’re more easily losing their tempers.
  • 32% say it has made them under eat or over-eat.

No. We are not, as a nation, all right. And whatever we were dealing with before the pandemic is only intensified during the pandemic. One of the reasons cited for school children returning to school is because the watchful, trained eyes of school teachers and counselors provided a check for families in trouble. Some of our Alabama school children started back to school in person today. And that raises another whole set of concerns and anxieties. We’re like the disciples, exhausted by being battered and beaten these last six months by this pandemic. “Take heart, it is I,” speaks Jesus, “do not be afraid.” We are not alone. The one who desires that we have abundant life is with us.

So if you are feeling a little wobbly emotionally, be kind to yourself. And if the people around you are seeming a little wobbly emotionally, be kind to them. Seek out help. The EAP benefits through the Board of Pensions allow you six free sessions with a counselor for each issue you are experiencing. For each issue! Get exercise. Eat nutritiously. Spend more intentional time with the one who says, “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”

And join me and your colleagues on Thursday afternoon at 4:00pm for mutual support, resourcing, and encouragement. The Zoom link is

As ever in prayer,

Sue Westfall

Comments are closed.