Post Pandemic Reflections

Monday, September 26, 2022

Written by Alan Vink

Categories: Gospel and Culture

Comments: 1


Good Morning and Welcome to this week’s Gospel and Culture update, by Alan Vink
Post Pandemic Reflections
Tuesday 27th September 2022

Post Pandemic Reflections

In June this year 24 Pastors of Christian congregations and one Imam sued Chris Hipkins, the minister for COVID-19 response, and Dr Ashley Bloomfield, claiming the regulations violated their religious freedom. In August this year The High Court of NZ ruled that government officials were not acting unlawfully when they restricted and regulated religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The court acknowledged that rules curtailed the protected right to “manifest religious beliefs” but deemed that allowable in a health emergency.

Christianity Today published this story last week about the case written by New Zealander Dave Crampton and the Judgement can be read here.

Here are a few of my thoughts about what we experienced from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to midnight last night when the final mandates were lifted.

  1. The pandemic was a major disruptor. The biggest in my lifetime largely because it was a global event. The ensuing lockdowns, vaccine roll-outs and mandates were unprecedented responses.
  2. The mandates were employed all around the world. It was based on the premise that a vaccinated population was the first line of defense against this deadly disease.
  3. A small %age of the world’s population did not accept neither the science or the regulations concerning the vaccine(s) OR had other personal reasons not to be vaccinated. In NZ as in most countries you were free to not be vaccinated. That said, it was clear in the public conversation that life would likely be severely restricted for you if you chose not to be vaccinated.
  4. In NZ we had a very good uptake of 92% of 12+ year old’s of eligible people vaccinated. It’s probable that the rate amongst Christians (and other religious peoples) could be quite a bit lower - perhaps 80%. This meant of course that more Christians were adversely affected by the mandates.
  5. Mandates were generally regarded as a tough measure especially for the unvaccinated but none-the-less essential to keep everyone safe especially the elderly and otherwise vulnerable.
  6. Mandates were only ever intended to be a temporary measure. I for one never heard anybody in ‘officialdom’ talk about permanent mandates in fact the opposite was true.
  7. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 was fairly applied. There is no evidence that religious groups were unfairly targeted at least not in New Zealand. What applied to restaurants, sports games and other public places where people congregated applied to churches and vice versa.
  8. Most churches quickly realized that Church is essential but Sunday Morning Gatherings were not and in fact are not. In other words though being together is important (and would be allowed again soon), the pandemic offered us all new ways to think about being the church when you can’t meet on Sundays at least not in large numbers.
  9. Many pastors did fabulous work during the two and half years of the pandemic. They called people regularly, had ‘driveway’ visits and convened Zoom small groups. I heard of one pastor setting up a marquee in his back yard and hosted small outdoor gatherings. Brilliant! Other pastors did not do this. A few spent their time complaining, arguing and even protesting.
  10. Sadly, I heard of some churches who applied the Health Orders in a rather draconian fashion. This resulted in many faithful Christians who were unvaccinated feeling left out in the cold and judged as second class citizens. I want to say again that was NOT because of the Health Order but rather because some churches lacked an ability to find creative solutions as to it’s application. The same was true in some other sectors.
  11. What in my opinion was perhaps the saddest feature of all is the number of Christians who became very angry and didn’t hesitate to let their pastors know. I heard of so many ugly stories where so called mature believers ‘lost their rag’. I would say as many 25-33% of Christians had a lot to say. Some postured as public health experts and others ended deep in conspiracy theory rabbit holes or both. As a result many churches have been quite wounded and will take some time to recover.
  12. Life is back to normal now but the impacts of C-19 will be with us for some time yet. A few churches have already closed and many others are up to 33% down in attendance and income. “May God give us all great wisdom as we navigate these post pandemic days and above all may we have learnt some really valuable lessons”.

Finally. Here is a helpful article titled, ‘Religious Freedom Lessons from COVID-19 Disputes’.

Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.

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  1. David Collins David Collins A very good reflection, Alan. There are many lessons to be learned. I know of one church that is keeping their "Sunday in homes" response alive, and using it going forward from time to time. They see it both as a positive alternative to the large Sunday gathering, having it's own set of unique benefits. They also see it's occasional use going forward as wise 'insurance' should other nationwide circumstance make it necessary. Tuesday, September 27, 2022