Spring 2022 | Called into the Unknown: Church and Pandemic

Nobody knew, of course. Two years ago, no one knew how long it would last or how bad it would be. As pandemic weeks stretched into months and then years, people of faith felt a special duty—to shore up spiritual resilience wherever they could. They also saw a historic opportunity—to do church differently, think about the meaning of belonging more creatively, and pursue the life of God more courageously. In this Reflections issue, YDS-related writers provide real-time dispatches from the field of community-building, meditations on divine presence in exhausting times, even a fantasia or two on the possible future, that terrain of the unknown that we have the power to imagine and enact.

Cover image: Jr Korpa/Unsplash


From the Dean's Desk

I am not a superstitious person, but Friday, March 13th, 2020, haunts me. At two o’clock that afternoon, I met with all of the Divinity School staff to announce that we were going to move the entire Divinity School into a virtual format: classes and operations. We had been moving in that direction for a week and had preparations underway, but this made it official. I closed by reciting the 23rd Psalm, a text that means a great deal to me personally and to millions of others.

Articles in this Issue

By Teresa Berger

Even in the middle of a staggering public health emergency, a key question of life remains strangely stable: how to journey deeper into the divine mystery that is the ultimate end of life’s pilgrimage?

By Stephen Bauman ’79 M.Div.

The collapse of traditional church structures is accelerating, yet it’s a time for hope, not pessimism: God’s primary work is bringing life out of death.

By Jyrekis Collins ’22 M.Div.

In a time of ideological derangement and spiritual drought, the church must remember three perennial themes in order to survive and prosper: human responsibility, truth-telling, and love in action.

By Dwight M. Kealy ’96 MAR

Two years’ isolation has stirred some people of faith to reestablish Christian community not as a socio-political clan of the religious but as a community of Christian believers.

By EunYoung Choi ’22 M.A.R.

In the Covid years, a regular prayer gathering with friends has overcome distance, doubt, and despair.

By Stephen Blackmer ’12 M.A.R., ’83 M.F.

The author went to the woods as the quarantine began. “Closer, come closer to me,” the Voice beckoned. His 40 days in the wilderness as a response to the pandemic was just the beginning.

By Ned Allyn Parker

A tense moment on an auditorium stage reveals a lesson about the power of community healing, and its necessity.

By Cheryl Cornish ’83 M.Div.

A Memphis congregation found resilience by opening its heart to blessings that arrive from unexpected places.

By Sophy Driscoll Gamber ’21 M.Div.

Facing the terrors of the contemporary world requires dreams—not escapist fantasies but real-life exercises in hope and daring, mindful of generations to come.

By Amina Shumake ’21 M.Div., ’22 S.T.M.

These days feel like the primordial beginnings of Genesis, when God was endeavoring to turn darkness into light.

By Caroline Cupp ’08 M.Div.

The pandemic revealed the strengths and struggles of churches and societies, knocking them to the ground but opening their eyes to truth.

By I’noli Hall ’22 M.Div.

We who are living through the Covid pandemic long for a kind of awakening, even a resurrection. But what kind of resurrection?

By Jere A. Wells

These years have demanded a deeper pastoral response—and a deeper prophetic confrontation with injustices. How to pursue both when polarization burns out of control?

By Jessica Anschutz ’07 M.Div.

A humane future depends on congregations fearlessly expanding their definition of neighbor.

By Michael Libunao-Macalintal ’20 M.Div.

We never expected to be in such a predicament, but here we are, holding one another in all of our fragility, tenderness, and love.

From the Editor

By Ray Waddle

Despite division and disinformation, a deeply insistent 21st century instinct wants to prevail: we will learn from this pandemic ordeal, and everyone should have a voice in the collective experience and a stake in the future.

Reflections is a publication of Yale Divinity School