“Forces Unseen: What Shapes Our Daily Life” is one of the Chautauqua Institution’s 2020 lecture week themes. In thinking about this question, we might all immediately respond, saying the novel viral pandemic is one of the most significant forces shaping our lives in history. It is hard to imagine how something so minute in size could cause so much global disruption and demand so many immediate and perhaps permanent changes.
Under a life-and-death-type threat, most people immediately made changes in their personal daily lives to a new culture comprised of social distancing, mask-wearing, handwashing, and staying at home. These changes were not on anyone’s long-term planning radar nor desired, but we did it out of necessity. Sociologists show an early honeymoon stage of community cohesion during disasters. (1) IOKDS members supported each other as a community emotionally with phone calls in our Project Stand Together-Apart and personal prayer.
Then as people begin taking inventory of the ongoing COVID impact, community cohesion is threatened by disillusionment, including fear for basic needs like safety and fatigue from uncertainty. (1) Triggering events of fear and anger are reported worldwide as people process and reflect on their losses. Romans 12:12 provides personal support for me during this pandemic time: Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, be constant in prayer.
One of the changes resulting from COVID was the closure of the Chautauqua Institution programming on the grounds for the first time since its founding 146 years ago. You can go to chq.org and sign on to the Chq Assembly accessing all programs virtually free for one month. Speaker Derek Thompson, a writer for The Atlantic, discussed what life might look like going forward in terms of invention, interruption, and acceleration. (2)
Let’s look at the COVID triggers of change for IOKDS. Are our members inventors adapting to new ways for our organization? Indeed, at the international level, quick pivoting of the Learn & Discern summer program to a virtual program fits the new category made possible by the invention of Zoom.us. And the first week of September, your IOKDS officers and Board of Directors will conduct the first, virtual, leadership retreat led by our new international president, Jan Laude. We learn that the WhatsoeverII Circle built an innovative plexiglass visiting booth for their IOKDS Home in Tennessee. A Kentucky Circle is involved in a Hosparus project of sewing lap blankets and cotton face masks. Read more about these projects in The Holiday Silver Cross issue.
In terms of COVID interruption at the international level, the cancellation of Conference 2020 was a significant disruption of lost work and lost opportunity for the Illinois Branch hosts and those who were registered. It follows this fall that some Branch conventions will cancel. For the first time in 14 years, pastors and spouses could not participate in the Clergy Renewal Week at Chautauqua. Will these activities resume post COVID days? Or will there be reasons to continue with virtual conferences and conventions augmented by webinars instead of in-person workshops? Will we regenerate energy to Rejoice in celebration of 101 years of IOKDS presence on the Chautauqua Institution grounds in 2021?
Consider our traditional fundraisers from bake sales to silent auctions that canceled as a result of the pandemic. Closure of our IOKDS houses for the summer resulted in a significant donation loss for the operational expenses of our Affordable Accommodations at Chautauqua. Our interns’ group project provided us with a new fundraising opportunity with a donation button on our IOKDS Facebook page. And what about our historical, interpersonal Lend a Hand approach to serving In His Name.
Thinking about cultural changes that are being accelerated by the pandemic, economic digitalization during COVID is seen by some as future progress compressed by ten years. You may remember ordering from the Sears catalog before the internet and Amazon. During the COVID period to date, online consumerism increased by 25%. (2) Will nonprofit digital donations follow this trend with increases in online giving? We thank our Donor Relations intern for helping obtain a Join or Renew Online website option for members-at-large, making it easier to support IOKDS with their dues payment.
Financial speculation also involves small enterprise struggling while there will be an evolutionary expansion of big businesses and organizations getting bigger. Will our small, nonprofit organization be resilient or struggle more while large nonprofits that focus on basic human needs, religion, and education get bigger? How will our historical, interpersonal Lend a Hand approach to serving In His Name continue regardless of our organizational size? Is what we did in the past working? Will it work now and in the future?
During COVID days, 29% of the workforce is working remotely from their homes, including our two staff members. Will many of these workers remain working remotely to save organizations’ office rent expenses? (Thankfully, IOKDS owns our headquarters office and does not pay rent.) From the beginning in 1886, Circles are the structural framework of our organization; however, in the last twenty years, Circle activity is diminishing with some Circles disbanding. If more workers continue to work virtually, will people want and have more time for in-person Circle participation? Or will people be adept in digital relationships and communication preferring convenient Zoom meetings? Undoubtedly, churches and other service organizations are contemplating the possibility of these opposite change outcomes and will compete for members and resources.
As we await science to find a vaccine and better Covid-19 treatment, we look to a period of restoration ahead. Processing disaster experience takes time both as an individual and as a group in our communities. Reflection and dealing with loss are not linear processes, but rather involve ups and downs over time. I believe the Spiritual Life Directors of our Circles, Branches, and the International organization can play an essential role in this process. Our Faith-Based Program Planning intern created a devotional that speaks to this process, and he is sharing it via email to our Spiritual Life leaders. To accompany the devotional, he gathered a YouTube playlist of uplifting interfaith music of various genres. Both the devotion and music playlist will be part of our Affordable Housing arrival guest packets in 2021.
Although this blog is filled with questions to ponder about our future, by this time next year, I believe, with God’s help and our members’ commitment to the future, we will be engaged in post-COVID new beginnings.