Congregational Discussion Guide: COVID-19

For Congregational Discussion


[1] The Journal of Lutheran Ethics hopes to provide reading material to stimulate thinking and conversation among academics, clergy, and laity. To this end, this section of JLE is provided in order to encourage constructive discussion within congregations about the topics discussed in JLE.  Consider using this section in formal adult education classes or in informal small group discussions. Given the current situation this might mean that this portion can be used in Zoom meetings, among household units, or in online discussion forums hosted by a church.

[2] The Special May Issue on COVID-19 is dedicated to looking at faithful responses to the current pandemic. The essay by Aaron Klink provides insight from Luther’s own reflections on a plague in his time while giving readers ideas to consider as they contemplate their ethical obligations in our time. The links to previously published essays include an article about the H1N1 pandemic in 2012 as well as contemplative articles on issues that are now at the forefront: racism, anxiety, and the use of technology. The quotes to Consider and Discuss come from all of those articles.

Quotes to Consider and Discuss:

[3] “For Luther, the office we hold during the pandemic shapes our response to its course.”  Aaron Klink.  What is your “office”? Are you a pastor? A mother? A nurse? A political or economic leader in your community? A student? A doctor? What are the obligations of your office and are there competing obligations?  For example, do you have a conflict between keeping your children safe as a parent and doing your job in a public space as an essential worker?  How are you navigating these obligations?

[4] “Lord, when was it that we saw you…, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Matthew 25:44-45)” Rev. Cheryl Pero asks the reader to consider this passage in light of structural racism that often makes “the least of these” invisible to us. Today we know that African Americans are dying of COVID-19 at three times the rate of white Americans and that Native American reservations are being devastated by the disease. Spend some time looking for news stories that highlight the plight of the “least of these” in today’s pandemic.  Who does that term fit in your mind? What avenues are available to you in your “office” that might enable and oblige you to offer solace and aid?

[5] “Recent experiences with virtual communities have shown me that the cultures of trust we so desperately need will not occur independent of cyberspace.”  Deanna Thompson.  Think about and share an experience in which you have received care, compassion, and faithful love through technology during this pandemic and quarantine.  What might we learn about how to continue to use these tools for those who are in isolation after the quarantine ends?

[6] “With faith, we should hold the world in prayer. With reason we should follow the best guidance available about how our actions can prevent the pandemic’s spread, socially isolating, and allowing vulnerable populations to shop at the early grocery stores hours, as an act of neighbor love.” Aaron Klink.   “Causes for anxiety will not go away and the experience of anxiety will not go away but neither will the grace of God for the power to say yes to Jesus command with a joy that anticipates the fullness of joy in God’s future.” James Childs.  Luther suggested that faith can protect us from the poisons of despair and anxiety but noted that this will take more than a “milk faith.”  Klink and Childs both advise readers to cling to faith. How has your faith in God’s love and goodness helped you cope with your fear, grief, and despair during this time?  In response to Klink’s quote, how has your faith in God also enabled you to trust your reason as you have made plans to cope with the pandemic and its effects?


Jennifer Hockenbery

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.