Covid-19: What Are You Learning From That?


Gail and I went to P. F. Chang’s Saturday, March 14. It was different. Few people were there. They were wiping tables where no one was seated — repeatedly — when no one had been there.

It was bizarre. It seemed as if we were in a place where no one knew what was going on — because we didn’t.

We were celebrating our birthdays — Gail’s on March 13, mine March 15. The food was delicious and crunchy but the atmosphere was as if something uncommon had happened.

It had — Covid-19 and our response to it.

It was the last time we would eat inside a restaurant until May 8. That day was even more unusual. Servers wore masks. We found paper disposable menus, no salt, pepper, cheese, and sugar water on the table (Demos in Murfreesboro). They served rolls in paper sacks (one for Gail and one for me). The QR code on the bill enabled me to pay with my iPhone without anyone touching my credit card.

Things had changed.

P. F. Chang’s isn’t the only place that’s been affected.

The next day was our last worship in a church building. It was our final day at River Road. The Lord’s Supper was served by men with rubber gloves. It was different.

We had a funeral-going-away-party for our last day.

We haven’t been in a building for worship since then.

We are going through a transition in the world. There was an ending. The will be a new beginning. In the middle is the Neutral Zone. We have been and are wandering in the wilderness.

Our habits have been interrupted. We are displaced in the way we worship and serve. Hospital visitation has changed, even for close family.

For more insight into his principle and William Bridges’ explanation: How Can We Improve Without Changing?

This time has been ideal for Gail and me. We had finished River Road. We planned to be off during April and May. We had discussed an interim-between-interims trip early in May. That can wait.

I used this time to experiment with retirement. I had no assignments.

No —

  • Sermons.
  • PowerPoints.
  • Bulletin articles.
  • Elders’ meetings.
  • Visitation.
  • Inviting people into our home to visit.

I have been retired since March 15.

Here’s what I observed and learned:

  • I have an equipped and functioning office/study upstairs at home.
  • I’ve put in fewer work hours per week:
    • Average per week during 2019 — 60.32.
    • Average per week during April — 44.19.
  • I’ve averaged the same amount of sleep per night — 8.
  • I’ve done the same amount of exercise.
  • I’ve kept the same routine of reading, studying, and daily practices as before. My reading is two books more than at this time last year.
  • I’ve had a better record of “quitting work” earlier each day than in the past.
  • Gail and I have had more time together.

This has been a valuable “trial run.” Friends often ask, “How long do you plan to continue interim ministry?”. My consistent answer: “I want to do this twenty years. I keep hearing if you do something twenty years, you get some kind of retirement.” I want to see what that is.

I have seven years until that goal. My Covid-19 interruption tells me I can do what I’ve been doing the past two months and be content and challenged in seven years or seven days, if necessary.

But I hope retirement will be delayed for now. I’m thankful to have an opportunity to begin working as an interim preacher at the Central church in McMinnville, Tennessee June 1.

Every event is an opportunity to learn.

We are experiencing a graduate course complete with a series of tests to check us spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

From what I’m learning, how will I prepare for the next big challenge?

What am I beginning to do differently to help me manage better, serve more effectively, and learn more when the next disruption comes?

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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