Coronavirus and Christianity: A call for creativity
The coronavirus crisis has a huge impact on our entire society. It affects us in our daily life, our physical health, and in our mental health. Many are searching for ways to cope with new situations, such as being locked in our own homes. Especially younger people are hit by a lockdown: it is hard not to see your friends in real life, and not going to school is not that fun after a while. Besides, you can even feel a bit out of place if you cannot meet your friends in church. So how do young religious people deal with their current situation?
To begin with, several key events for young Christians have been postponed. For example, Pope Francis decided to move two major Catholic events: the World Meeting of Families and World Youth Day. The events were planned for respectively 2021 and 2022, but will both be held a year later. Not only large events were cancelled; smaller celebrations were greatly affected as well. Churches all over Europe are postponing celebrations, such as the confirmation of twenty Finnish children in Kangasala. In response to these disappointing developments, church leaders have been trying to find new ways to connect. In IJsselmuiden-Grafhorst, the Netherlands, for instance, a reverend took to WhatsApp in order to have discussions with all his confirmation catechumen.
Young faithful and the pope – messages back and forth
With many events cancelled, but religious leaders still wanting to stay in touch with their young faithful, both are messaging each other to express their concern and initiatives. For example, on Palm Sunday – which has been dedicated to young people for 35 years -, Pope Francis paid extra attention to young Catholics. The pope urged them to spend their lives on God and other people, for that is the way to live life to the fullest. Young faithful, on the other hand, wrote a letter to Pope Francis after another religious event – The Economy of Francesco – was postponed to November 2020. They stated that they view the extra time waiting for the event and the time in lockdown as a very long Holy Saturday, which is the time of waiting until the resurrection. Besides, they also see the importance of the so-called ‘economy of relationships’ (an inclusive and life-giving economy) and promised that they will redouble their efforts on establishing such an economy.
Youth workers in churches have also found ways to keep young faithful interested. For instance, in Leicester, United Kingdom, a 27-year-old youth worker used Minecraft to rebuild the original church and to meet young faithful in their world. The youngsters can complete Biblical challenges and meet with their regular youth group. Moreover, in Belgium, young faithful are encouraged to look after the elderly in their community by running errands or walking their dogs.
Youths taking matters into their own hands
Not only are young faithful responding to what religious leaders pose or organise for them; they also start their own initiatives. For example, in the Netherlands, evangelical youth group BEAM – together with the Dutch Salvation Army – has raised money for sex workers who had to stop working due to coronavirus. Furthermore, young faithful of the Sant’Egidio community in Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium, have set up a call centre to stay connected with their elderly friends, and they also practically support those who cannot leave home. As for ‘standard’ religious behaviour, a study from the UK showed that young adults have turned to prayer more than older adults. Even young people who had never gone to church before, suddenly tuned in on digital services.
All in all, both young faithful and their religious leaders have started initiatives to cope with the crisis, to help others, and to connect with one another online. Rather than sitting still, young Christians are inspired by their belief to make a change in these challenging times.
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