There is an often forgotten marginalised group of people of whom I am a member. You might spot one of them glancing around at other people nervous, as they move about somewhere, now the only one wearing a mask. They are likely to get exceptionally nervous if someone approaches them closely, or insist on talking to them close to their face. They might talk to a shop worker whilst standing in an open doorway of a shop to make an essential visit and minimise their sense of risk. Just this past week I was doing that and the shop owner despite seeing the giveaway mask said “can’t you close the door, It’s cold”
I felt like answering
“You can be a bit cold now so I don’t get cold rather more permanently in a coffin”
There are many stories of people being abused verbally even physically for the “crime” of still wearing a mask.
For many immunocompromised people, including some of us with blood cancer, the vaccines don’t work. For us the pandemic is not over. In fact it is probably the most dangerous time of all.
Friends and family who may not have seen these people at all for the last two years sometimes lose interest. Or when a proposal is made to perhaps meet outside for safety those dismissive words come up again “it’s too cold”
This group of people have probably simply never attended your church since lockdown. Or maybe they came for one fearful week when churches had all kinds of restrictions announced. But when Mr and Mrs Jones were exercising their God-given right to be selfish and not wear those masks, and no steward dared ask them to put them on, they never came back. Now I suspect no one in your church wears a mask.
If you live in the UK and want to help this group please sign and share our petition to fund the one preventive medication that might help us return to society
Now you could criticise these people for being too fearful. Or you could repeat the mantra “but God will look after you” or you can say “but omicron is mild”. All these statements are easy for you to say if you are vaccinated, have a healthy immune system, or have already caught covid19 and recovered.
Why is it so hard for many to put themselves back into how we all felt in early 2020. This disease was unknown. Many were afraid. So we hid ourselves away and social distanced. Many in this marginalised group have not really stopped. Though they might pop their heads out of their shells occasionally in an effort to stave off the psychological trauma that living in what is often not far from solitary confinement causes.
This group feels let down by the governments as it is actually harder for them to walk around now than it was when masks were required. They feel let down by employers, many of whom are now trying to force them to return to the office even though they may have successfully worked from home for two years now. They may even feel let down by friends and family who are often inconsiderate.
Think back to those who used to be part of your church or social circle but who haven’t attended since the lockdowns. Maybe you rang them with Zoom often at the beginning of the pandemic but as your life went back to normal those calls dropped off.
The Bible urges us to visit and care for those in prison, so we should also be caring for those who are still shielding.
Wear that mask. Take that test before meeting. Agree to meet outside. Or if they are not ready for that, don’t mock them but pick up the phone and at least talk to them.
And if you run a church, ask yourself is there anything that you could do to help some of this group feel more comfortable. Sitting them next to an open window. Explaining on your website that you welcome them to wear masks. Investing in a high quality HEPA air filter to improve the quality of the air and catch viral particles. Setting up a seating area that is separate from others with chairs well apart and excellent ventilation perhaps.
Does anyone know of a church who has made any special adaptations for the Immunocompromised at all? Or is this group destined to be ostracised from church forever if they don’t feel safe to come. Covid hasn’t gone away. In the UK 1 in 13 people have it right now. Even though many of them do not know they have it, for those of us who haven’t allowed COVID to catch us yet and for whom vaccines haven’t worked, we are still at huge risk. We are the ones dying in hospital. And some of us feel that society is quite happy about that.
There are huge social justice issues going on. Millions were vaccinated successfully. But for those who don’t make antibodies in response to vaccines, we need to be given antibodies shield us. In the USA thousands of doses lie unused on shelves whilst patients are often refused the life saving treatment by their doctor. In the UK a pre-order for a million doses of what you could call a “passive vaccination” was cancelled, and the government continue to refuse to fund it.
Jesus was interested in the marginalised and continuously reached out to them. He said that if you visit someone in prison you are doing it for him.
What are you doing for the immunocompromised in your community?