COVID is everywhere, even in Nagaland, a tiny little State tucked in the remote corner of North-East India. The first case of Covid-19 was reported on 22 May 2020. Within six months (Nov 2020), the Covid-19 positive cases crossed the 10,000 mark.

The Government has worked relentlessly to flatten the curve. But, now, a few reported cases indicate a possible outbreak of the third wave. The sudden rise of COVID cases reflects a grim picture of the present.

The Covid-19 Pandemic is a defining moment of our times. It has changed the way we learn, work, and live. More importantly, the irreversible changes have become the “new normal”. On the flip side, the Pandemic has affected our livelihoods and even our inner lives, social needs, and future dreams.

How can the Church be Church in the Post Covid era? As an Associate Pastor serving in Waromung, one of the Ao-Naga villages in Nagaland, I have often asked myself this question for a while now. So, here are five things we can do (in our little corner) to make a difference.

1.    Mental health:

Some people have lost their dear ones to this Pandemic. But, unfortunately, there was nothing much they could do! The Pandemic has forced people to live in a state of fear, shock and despair.

People suffer from depression, stress and anxiety. The Church, then, must be the herald for love, compassion, and kindness. We should, perhaps, begin to focus on public mental health well-being. This will help us fulfil the healing and caregiving ministry in the community.

2.    Medical care:

The second wave of the Pandemic was harsh. It exposed the inadequacies of many medical health care institutions in India. Rural hospitals suffered as they were underprepared to deal with the increasing caseloads and the demand for specialized treatment.

The Church needs to help upgrade medical facilities to ensure quality health services are provided even to the poor and the marginalized.

3.    Back to Home Mission:

The extension of the missional activities of the Church beyond its immediate congregational boundary is a great sign of growth, progress and strength of the Church. However, this should not become an easy excuse for neglecting the needs of the immediate congregation.

Many congregation members needed help during the Pandemic, and churches could not support the poor and needy in their midst. So, shouldn’t Churches be prepared to support their members during times of difficulty and hardship?

4.   Use of Media and Technology:

With the introduction of COVID protocols, the effectiveness of these technologies in various media platforms was made known to the world. These technologies and media platforms are very powerful. Therefore, the churches should use these tools (and be equipped to use them) to reach people when physical presence and contact are restricted.

5.    Entrepreneurship and Skill Development

It is critically important to address unemployment. Therefore, Churches must encourage Skill Development and entrepreneurship.

Moreover, due to back-to-back lockdowns, many lost their jobs. Those working in the Metropolitan Cities were forced to return to their native rural hinterlands. Therefore, Churches must think of supporting their congregations to sustain their lives.

Some churches during the Pandemic took great initiatives in livelihood training such as poultry, cattle rearing, piggery, self-sustainable farming program, etc. Such initiatives should be the “new normal” within the Church’s Mission initiatives.

Along with revival and retreat programs for the youths, the Church should encourage young people to develop Small and Medium enterprises 

It is all too easy to dismiss Pandemic-related problems as “temporary”. I need not spotlight the emotional and economic “setback” individuals and families have suffered during the last two years. Perhaps, It may take a long while to come out of this stronger. We all know it.

On a personal note, it is quite heartbreaking to see families suffer the impact of the Pandemic. Families have desperately tried to cope with the disruption that the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought about. And yet, it’s not enough.

Re-building needs an action plan, both short-term and long-term. Therefore, the Church needs to identify the immediate needs (social, economic and spiritual) and future aspirations of those affected by the Pandemic.

A focus on these five things – Mental health, Medical Care, Media and Technology, Home Missions, and Entrepreneurship – can have long term results. Agreed, the Challenges are real and many But, the Church can be on the move in faith.

Our stories will surely have a happy ending. That is our Christian hope.

Sashikümla Longkümer serves as the Woman Pastor in the Waromung Ao Baptist Church, Nagaland.