Soul Work and Spirit Work: a reflection from MacNeill Baptist Church
As the world tries to deal with the impact of this global pandemic, we find that our Christian tradition offers tools for healing, tools we may use to heal ourselves and also those who have no church affiliation. We find ourselves rediscovering the tools for healing and offering those tools widely and gladly. The tools are to help individuals and communities to do all-important soul work. That is, to assist in paying full and proper attention to the depths of self.
We recognize the ways people have suffered and continue to suffer during COVID. Those who are sick with the virus need support, need pastoral care. As well, those closely related to someone sick and those who have tended to the needs of the sick are themselves in need of care and support. Care-providers include not only family and friends but all who are engaged in the economy and politics of care. The Christian tradition of pastoral care has those necessary tools for soul work.
There are many people who have been isolated and shut in and locked down for long periods of time. They need to feel they have value and dignity. For all those people, the Christian tradition of pastoral care offers tools for meaning-seeking and meaning-making, both so necessary for healing. Changes in behavior and practice may be undertaken more easily with caring and support for soul work.
In addition to that inward-looking soul work, there is spirit work to be done, now and in the times ahead. Even in secular society, spirit work happens. Perhaps it happens in the form of moments that take our breath away or events and words that inspire us. This is spirit work. Learning to recognize it is crucial to healing in these difficult times.
The pandemic has offered intense moments of spirit work. We become aware of that spirit work when we contemplate the speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were developed. Surely that progress is breath-taking. It is worth pausing to remember the brilliance, energy and thoroughness of these vaccines. The collaboration necessary and the global investments have been astonishing. Nothing like this has ever been seen before.
It would be interesting to know just how many scientists and researchers were driven by faith and buoyed through their long days of work by concern and love for humanity. How much prayer was voiced in support of this global leaning into wisdom and longing for care and cure as the vaccines were produced?
Next came, to everyone’s amazement, the information that the vaccines were 90% effective, where the most optimistic expectations had been only 60%. From the pastoral care tool box comes astonishment and fervid thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Spirit work is necessarily ongoing. We find ourselves in a divided global community. 30% of our population has lost trust and faith in science, in community, in government. Debate is not the answer, nor is disparagement. We know this from history and from current events. It is hope that needs to be restored.
The tools for imagining and shoring up and offering hope are all part of the Christian tradition. Hope, which Christians call salvation, is the most healing tool in our pastoral care tool box. Salvation comes in a steady stream from a source beyond all our imaginings and accomplishments. It is the continuing work of the Holy Spirit, offered in a love that never ends.