Commissioner Hodder reaching into van

A new normal awaits

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Through glove-covered hands and six-foot-close feet

By Ashley Koebel, Captain – 

When the phrase “novel coronavirus” first emerged early this year, it came with a lot of panic. In the United States, we began to see the toll this disease was taking on other countries as we awaited it on our own shores. Having seen the chaos in New York, west coast government officials jumped to action. Not long after, we began to shelter at home—which effectively turned all of our lives upside down.

The disease’s toll has been incalculable. Still, in the midst of this, we are discovering so much more about the way we as a community can fight back. You may have seen signs saying “we stand together by standing apart.” A new normal where love is shown not by drawing close, but by pulling away. This has been so counter-intuitive—especially for The Salvation Army! We love these in-person connections. Things have changed, yet we still preach the gospel. We still meet human need in Jesus’ name.

As we move forward, things will keep changing. What will remain constant is if, as The Salvation Army, we keep tattooed on our hearts who we belong to and what we are here to do. We belong to Christ, and right now we are here to be his glove-covered hands and six-foot close feet. For a biblical example of physical distancing at its finest, look at the story of Lazarus. When Jesus heard of his friend’s poor health, he did not run to be near him. Instead, he waited. He obviously did not wait because he was worried he would catch what Lazarus had. Instead, he waited because he understood that the time was not right. That story ended in a miracle far greater than a healing.

This time is hard on everyone, but it will not last forever. In the meantime, we have to find ways to be connected. The Salvation Army, and many churches, have gone from in-person only meetings to virtual worship in a matter of days. Corps are delivering activity kits to families at home. Devotionals are being shared by phone every day. Sunday school is taking on a new fresh look. This is great, and still we need to keep going.

I do not know exactly what our new normal will look like in the coming months. It is going to change as we receive governmental guidelines. This could be a range of specifics, but there are two values that I know we need to move forward successfully. We will need to be safe and we will need to grow. Plans are written and will be in place requiring sanitizing, distancing and communication protocols for every program and every meeting space. In the California South Division, we have been keeping a close eye on state and county health orders and updating corps and programs on what can and cannot be in operation. When we do return to in person meetings, you will notice your corps will likely have a lot of hand-sanitizer, informational posters, and pre-set physically distanced chairs. 

The next value we will need to effectively move forward is continued growth. To be clear, this does not have to be about numbers. The great accomplishment in these first few weeks of our shelter-in-place orders was not that we went online or even that we were able to share so much food and shelter to our communities. Instead, the great accomplishment is that we found new, authentic ways to connect to others.

The gospel message is not a Sunday-only message, but an everyday connection to God. The gospel message is that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son. The gospel message looks less like full pews and more like holding our kids, looking out for our elderly neighbors, calling a friend we haven’t spoken to in years, and just being the people he created us to be. If we can move forward safely and if we can continue to grow through authentic connection to God and each other, then I think our new normal will be far better than anything we could have imagined.



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