2020 September Issue of FOCUS

Posted Sep 29, 2020

Editorial – Stephanie Potter

This issue was planned in August of 2019. We had already decided the major themes we wanted to cover for 2020 – each issue was to take on a different aspect of how our membership lives out our mission statement. What we could not have predicted in the summer of 2019 was what life would be like in the summer of 2020. We could not have known how your call to service and ours would have an increasing sense of urgency as our day to day lives grow both bigger and smaller in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our responsibilities have grown exponentially while we are increasingly called to stay in our homes, away from the fellowship we need now more than ever. 

This issue of FOCUS, planned over a year ago, was designated to cover the kind of service our members engage in. We have curated some articles we hope will inspire and challenge you. Ken Sande shares with us about Relational Wisdom, a useful tool for you as a practitioner or student and in your own life. The Haaks write for us about Biblical Counselling in the helpful context of their new life running a hobby farm. Dr. Amanda Morel gives us insight into the foundation of a new non-profit dental clinic she founded in Ontario. We hope that through their excellent articles you will gain insight into how to continue to integrate your faith even more deeply into your practice.

In addition, Dr. David Deane provided us with an article about how Christians served their community during times of plague. His article inspired us to reach out to our members – graduate doctors and dentists, residents and students – to learn more about how they were managing during the pandemic. The insights gleaned in their articles ring true as we all struggle with our own personal challenges related to the pandemic.

The first 9 months of this year have been a complex mix of life moving at a break neck pace and having to hold aspects of our lives in uncomfortable stasis. New restrictions and regulations have informed every part of our lives. We watch our symptoms – is this a cold, allergies? – to decide what’s enough to be tested. We track cases – suspected, confirmed, recovered, passed – as the baseline measure for how our day, week, month, year will go. We follow the news from our colleagues here and abroad about the progress on a vaccine, the efficacy of various treatments, and the hopeful leads buried in an increasing avalanche of studies. All of that while still caring for our patients, our family, and our community. Many Canadians were furloughed or had their work drastically reduced for several months due to public health restrictions and the economic shutdown as a result of the pandemic,  including medical and dental practitioners. But patients didn’t stop needing care, so when practices were able to see more patients, there were months of backlog to manage. Our student members are experiencing medical and dental school in a way our current grads could not have imagined – the lecture hall has been replaced with a series of endless video classroom calls. Where before they had to manage their own physical and mental stamina, they now have to navigate a myriad of tech issues as well to ensure their learning isn’t even more interrupted. Our dental student members are balancing the need for in-person learning with the need for safety.

All of these stresses are added to our lives without our normal support networks – our friends, family, Church, CMDA Canada fellowship – there to nourish and support us in person. More than one member has shared with us how stressful this period has been. 

In these dark times, however, there are many signs of hope. In the ever increasing bombardment of COVID-19 research there have been some encouraging details. According to a study by Jeanet Bentzen at the University of Copenhagen, Google searches related to prayer have increased to the highest level ever recorded. (Bentzen, Jeanet, In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic (May 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14824, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3615587) The study argues that the increase in online searches for prayer as a topic isn’t as a substitute for religious services in physical locations, but rather is due to people turning to faith in a time of incredible adversity. I suspect each of us has anecdotal evidence of this in our own lives. In the early days of the pandemic shutdown in our province, Churches saw dramatic increases in attendance at online services. My Church, which normally welcomed 1,500 people in a weekend  before the pandemic, saw online attendance reach over 10,000 in a single weekend. While this is an extreme example, I’m sure many of us also have experienced a turning to faith among our friends and family. A family member who was raised in the faith, but stopped attending decades ago, acknowledged a call to seek the Lord during the pandemic. She now joins online services weekly and has joined an online home group to help grow her faith. When I asked her the reason she made the leap back into faith, she shared that in the face of this crisis, she noted that the people in her life who had faith were coping with the strain differently. She found that her sense of peace and trust grew as she engaged her faith more through the Church.

My takeaway is that our faith isn’t meant to be lived alone. All the struggles, all the challenges, all the fears, they’re so much less overwhelming through the eyes of faith and with the support of our faith community. As people already part of a community, both our individual churches and CMDA Canada, what is our obligation in these times? I would argue our obligation hasn’t changed. The Great Commission still holds fast. Yet, how we live out that calling has changed to some extent. 

There is a drawing in and a reaching out that we are called to engage in during these times. We draw in those on the margins who are seeking faith to help them cope with the encroaching darkness. We welcome the stranger, the prodigal son, and the lost sheep. We ensure they feel supported and have a sense of belonging. We connect them with fellowship and resources where necessary. We invite them to grow in their relationship with Christ. 

We also are called to reach out to those outside of our fellowship – those who are struggling alone and those who haven’t a concept of where to find strength and support. They could be our colleagues, neighbours, family and friends. God gives us opportunity to reach out and support one another. With the increase of events online, there are ample occasions to invite even the most unchurched person so they have an opportunity to encounter Jesus. As a CMDA Canada member, if there aren’t online events in your area, we can provide you resources and access to online services so that you can host other practitioners in need of spiritual respite in your area. 

These acts of service are part of our call as Christians. No pandemic can come between us and God’s mission. While the maelstrom caused by the pandemic can feel overwhelming, it’s good to remember that our response to those in spiritual need can change the course of their life. They can come to know Christ or enter into a deeper relationship with Him through our small act of service. The Great Commission can’t be shut down. The faith can’t be furloughed. The Spirit is moving all around us and how blessed we are to participate even in our own small way.