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Don’t Let The Mask Keep You From Ministering

Overcoming Barriers in Ministry in the Age of COVID
By Fr. Dale Hall, a pastor at Mission Cleveland, TN and minister to the homeless of Chattanooga as chaplain for the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

As well as being a priest in the local church, I am also a chaplain at my local homeless services center. Even though I have worked in the field before, there are still mental barriers to push through to connect with other people.

Since the COVID-19 crisis, face masks and shields are necessary and mandatory. At times it feels like a huge psychological hurdle: It magnifies the sense of separation and barrier between you and the other person. This is true as well while interacting with parishioners at the local church… a handshake or a hug is so natural; the COVID-19 crisis has changed that, at least for the time.

What I am finding is that I must focus harder on clearer communication with others.  With the extra gear on, people can’t read my body language as easily, so I must articulate as I communicate.
Be mindful and attentive in the communication process, given the extra barriers.
This requires slowing down and taking more time for communication; don’t be in a rush.
Ask questions, ask people to repeat themselves, and be willing to do the same for clearer communication.

It took several days of wearing protective gear to push through the psychological hurdles of separation I felt as I checked in and communicated with people on the street. The extra barriers can easily discourage you from wanting to do ministry, but there are rewards when you push through.

Image credit: Woodcut: Christ healing a leper, 1571. Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)