The Circuit Breaker and quarantining

During this period of a semi-lockdown when we are not able to physically gather together as God’s people, I trust it evokes a feeling of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. When I checked with one member, he told me he was looking forward to the day when we can all resume normal worship. He misses coming together as a congregation, and I believe he speaks for most of us. Therefore, one of the good things arising from the current pandemic situation is that we are shaken out of taking things for granted.

This is the first time we are experiencing such an abnormal situation. We are thankful that long before the semi-lockdown was imposed, Ps Daniel and his team were already anticipating it and piloting trials in live streaming so that when it became a necessity for us to conduct services online, we were ready to roll it out. That went on for three Sundays before even live streaming was not permitted as part of the government’s stepped-up measures to stop the spread of the virus. The next option was pre-recorded worship, and thank God, Rev Luwin and his team of young working adults were able to get it done in double quick time. Different segments of the worship service were done separately at the homes of individuals before they were ‘stitched’ up into a unified order of worship. And so it was that on the Apr 12, we aired our first pre-recorded worship service, which was well received by members. Most recently, Dn Pang Wee worked with Ps Daniel and Rev Luwin to engage the CGs as well as other leaders to reach out to members who are not in any CG. The objective is to find out how each of these members are doing during this period and if there are ways the church can pray for them or help them.

By now, this pandemic has brought the world to its knees and, through major upheavals, rewritten established rules in fields from politics to business to social interactions. Our hearts go out to those who have been immensely impacted as well as those braving the risk of infection by serving and helping the sick and others in need. Our government has reached out with generous help schemes for Singaporeans. In spite of this, should any member require more help, please do contact any of the leaders of the church or call our office.

The paradox about this serious pandemic is that the solution to defeat it is downright simple – “stay at home”. The aim is to keep ourselves a little isolated from one another so that the virus has no means to transmit itself further. Isolation or safe distancing as a solution to end the pandemic is amazingly simple because of our knowledge of invisible germs and their rapid transmission from one person to another.

At the same time, the concept of safe distancing has scriptural support. Many hundreds of years back, the Israelites were already taught this concept by Moses. The details of the advanced medical knowledge of that time can be found in the Book of Leviticus, a book many of us find difficult to relate to our present-day living and therefore tend to skip. However, this book comes to life in the current pandemic. Leviticus is actually a handbook on God’s laws of hygiene and sanitation based on medical knowledge of germs and unseen viruses, which had not been discovered during the time of Moses. Consider just one such verse from the book in regard to safe distancing. In Leviticus 13:46, we are told that when a priest identified someone who had an appearance on the skin that resembled leprosy, he would pronounce, “He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his habitation shall be outside the camp”. In other words, the infected person was to be isolated from the rest of the community. God’s people obeyed His instruction even when they did not understand germs and bacteria scientifically. Perhaps some of us still struggle with difficult passages or concepts found in Scripture, but let us trust God and His Word. Proverbs 30:5 declares, “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

In the 14th century, a pandemic known as the Black Death in Europe killed an estimated 60 million people. As the pandemic spread unabated, it was said that church leaders looked to Scripture for

answers and found the concept of quarantining in the Book of Leviticus. Author Grant R Jeffrey, who wrote the book The Signature of God, describes his visit to a statue located in the city center of Vienna dedicated to the Black Death’s countless victims, with an account of the actions of the church fathers at that time, in accordance with Scripture, to abolish the curse of that disease.

Lending credulity to Grant’s account, I read a recent Straits Times article written by Annalee Newitz describing quite a similar application of how this age-old medical wisdom was also put into practice during the plague of 1666 in England, which killed about 100,000 people in London alone. In total, an estimated three-quarters of a million perished in England. Newitz described how public servants searched out new cases of infection and quarantined them along with everyone who shared their homes. A red cross was painted on the doors of quarantined homes with the words, “LORD HAVE MERCY UPON US”. The words had to be written in capital letters. Food was then supplied to these residents. After 40 days, the red crosses were painted over with white crosses and the residents were ordered to sterilise their homes with lime. So it was that quarantining stopped the spread of the plague and saved England from more deaths. Let us therefore support our government’s call to stay at home.

No one knows for sure what kind of world will emerge from the current pandemic. What is certain is the memories that will be associated with it. When the circuit breaker is lifted and we can go out and have some fresh air without having to wear our face masks or keep a safe distance from others, I hope that taste of freedom and enjoyment, which we previously took for granted, will be that much sweeter and more appreciated. So in one sense, apart from the untold suffering and pain felt by those affected, there are a good number of precious lessons for us. Let us learn to treasure the simple things in life that are so freely given to us by God and, above all, His flawless Word in Holy Scripture.

– Eld Peter Seah