Divinity School webinar emphasizes state of the Church amid pandemic
Silliman University (SU) Divinity School held a webinar on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on churches around the country last April 28, 2021, via Zoom and Facebook Live.
The online event titled “Church in the Pandemic: Impacts and Prospects” featured Dr. Walden Ursos, Dean of the SU Medical School, and Bishop Melzar Labuntog, General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), as speakers.
Labuntog centered his talk on the impact of the pandemic on local churches and relayed his observations on how churches throughout the Philippines have been dealing with the current situation.
Labuntog emphasized that churches certainly displayed their unhampered pursuit of ministry by adopting new means, especially the utilization of the internet, social media, phone calls, and printed guides for worship services at home for communities and churches where worship services cannot be broadcasted.
He also mentioned that the new means did not only involve the aspect of worship but more so, the churches were able to hold online Sunday School and Vacation Church School; while some were able to organize relief assistance for the needy sectors in the community and donate to hospitals the needed personal protective equipment, alcohol, sanitizers, facemasks and face shields to the frontliners in the various government units and hospitals around the country.
He also added that meetings have taken the virtual platform as well as the continuing theological education for the church workers.
On the other hand, Labuntog expressed that the church must look deeper into the Statement on Health Ministry and on how to involve the church-owned hospitals. This is to carry out the church’s ministry of healing, preaching, and teaching as modeled by Jesus Christ. He also shared about schools, formation centers, hotels, and other church-owned entities that are facing financial instability due to the current pandemic.
He also shared about the dynamic efforts of the clergy and the lay, who despite the present circumstances, have managed to pursue the church’s ministry more creatively even amid the persecution and the threats of the global health crisis.
Meanwhile, Ursos, a medical practitioner who also happens to be a “pastor’s kid,” shared about the nation’s medical situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He elaborated on the vaccination and encouraged the public to avail of the said program for the community and for the organizations and schools.
Pointing out that herd immunity will help halt the pandemic, he encouraged the pastors and church workers to learn deeper about the vaccination and educate their flock to avail of the vaccination. Ursos emphasized that the church has a big role in promoting vaccination as according to him, many people would believe their pronouncement compared to those who are medical practitioners.
Furthermore, he encouraged the virtual audience to be vaccinated by sharing about the benefits of vaccination: gain protection from the disease, develop immunity from the virus, protect the people around you and people who have high risks of being infected.
“Benefits should outweigh the risks,” shared Ursos, who recently survived COVID-19, as he strongly encouraged people to avail of vaccines despite the numerous talks about side effects.
The said webinar was moderated by Rev. Wella Hoyle-De Rosas, who is presently serving as minister for students and campus chaplaincy of SU Church.
This event is part of the series of webinars organized by the SU Divinity School in celebration of its Centennial Year, which will be marked by August 2021.
(Report by Klein F. Emperado, SU Divinity School Centennial 2021 special project staff)