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Ethics and Religion Talk: Addressing Fears in the COVID-19, Crisis, part 2

More words of encouragement and hope to address the uncertainties and fears of living under the shadow of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Here are four more panelists sharing words of encouragement and hope.

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“I find a life of social distancing is quite scary because it is difficult to be cooped up and not able to travel freely like before the ‘shelter-in-place’ order. I do not have “magic words” to help adjust to this situation. I will share with you how I am coping with living in this closed world.

“Being a man of faith, I am finding more time to spend praying and reflecting on God’s presence in the world around me. I find joy in days with larger periods of daylight. I am delighted when I see the orange breast of a robin or the scarlet of a cardinal. The blooming of the snow drops, the first flower to bloom in spring soon to be followed by the blue stars. I am enjoying the trees coming back to life, and not only planning my garden but also ordering seeds and starting flowers and vegetables. I am calling people instead of texting.

“I know this time of adversity will pass… it will simply take time. I will assert ‘life is good!’ The above is what gives me hope not only for this present moment but also for the future.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Reformed and Presbyterian Christians believe in God’s sovereignty all things, including men and microbes. ‘God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass’ (Shorter Catechism, Q. 7). Global pandemics are beyond our control, but not His. Trusting in God, we can throw off fear and submit to His will for our lives and our planet:  ‘Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea’ (Psalm 46:2). 

“We also believe in God’s providence and His promise to ‘avert all evil or turn it to our profit’ (Form for Baptism). ‘Health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 27). But such faith does not free us from the need to walk circumspectly: ‘A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself’ (Proverbs 27:12). 

“While ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolating,’ we should pray, ‘LORD, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’ (Psalm 90:12). We profit from affliction if we emerge from it to live more humbly and more thankfully, loving and serving the LORD our God, and not living to please ourselves.”

Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:

“It's perhaps in the most challenging times that we rediscover the most important aspects of our lives. People of all faiths are seeking hope and assurance from their various traditions and finding needed solace and comfort. Orthodox Christians believe that God, in his goodness, either provides or allows everything that happens to us that can be for our benefit, no matter how challenging. This is sometimes difficult to see when we're suffering but we have the option to humble ourselves before our God who tells us, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ (Isaiah 55:8). We believe Jesus himself suffered and died that we might, through our own suffering, find life. Along with the challenges, the current crisis brings many blessings: time with family, time to slow down from what was such a hectic pace of life, and the remembrance that we are not our own saviours. May all find comfort in this time of trial in the loving God who does all in His love for us.”

The Rev. Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, responds:

“At times, being an enfleshed human feels like we are holding together tensions and contradictions that threaten to tear us apart. In these moments, when our flesh feels betrayed or like our flesh itself is betraying us, we may wish to forget our bodies for a time.

“I want to challenge those who claim that some bodies are disposable; love your body. Love does not always mean like. In fact, it is when we least like our flesh, perhaps scared of its frailty, that our bodies most need our love. It is in moments when we feel unlike our bodies, when our bodies seem strange even to us, that we need to love ourselves as we would love our neighbors. In the valley of this uncanny division between everyone and everybody that it may be the spirit of love itself which holds us together. When we walk through the shadow of this valley, between death and life, mind and body, we most desperately need Love to be our shepherd. Christ himself embodied that love for us. Christ himself sat with those who were dying and those who rose from the dead. Christ himself knew flesh, living and dying at the crossroad of many contradictions. Love your body beloved.”

Dr Sahibzada, the Director of Islamic Center and Imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Believers seek assistance from God through patience and prayers. He is always with patient persons. God test His creation with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits.

The pleasing moments are for persevere ones; and they say at time of sudden incurable affliction, “Indeed everything belongs to God and finally we will return to God.

“God showers His mercy upon repentant persons and seekers of forgiveness. They are the rightly guided.

“Those who love to spread immoral deeds to take humanity away from righteous path will face consequences in both worlds.

“God love those who show trust in Him particularly in time of critical nature. Success lies in adopting purified life and surrendering to His Will. For every disease there is cure and no one should be dismayed from the Mercy of God. HE is the only Merciful eternally.”

Chris Curia, the Director of Youth Ministries at Fairway Christian Reformed Church, responds:

“Lord, there are no words for uncharted days such as these. Wherever we find ourselves this morning—geographically, emotionally, spiritually; alone, together, apart—we pray for peace where it may feel like peace is in shortage.

“We pray for the most vulnerable in our communities across the world: May it be that they receive the treatment and testing necessary to revitalize their health.

“We pray for our government officials and our news outlets: May they practice good listening to our health experts and be humble amidst such unprecedented times. We pray for bipartisan cooperation that leads to action in consideration of the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We pray for patience for our relentless health care workers and grocers and small business owners and teachers and school administrators. We’re grateful for their diligence and pray for their safety in the weeks ahead.

“Finally, may we find solidarity in this ever-unfolding time of uncertainty. May perfect love cast out fear, even if perfect love comes in the form of a text or direct message, a FaceTime or phone call. May we lean into this season of solitude with the hope that someday, this, too, shall pass.

“And as we are mindful of Easter, right around the corner, may we find hope that death will not have the last word. May we believe in the promise of rebirth and new life, even in the moments when it’s hard to believe they will come.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up ina the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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