Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

About Amish

Saloma Miller Furlong's Blog


We're All in this Together

How do we gain perspective on the sudden changes that have been thrust upon us in the past month by the pandemic? This is the question that I’ve been asking myself, and it’s been preventing me from writing in my journal or on this blog. But then I realized one day, that being “in it” is still a perspective, though not the one I would prefer of having made it through and now looking back on these difficult weeks of isolation. I realize that we are among the fortunate ones because we can stay home. Health professionals who are working in hospitals caring for those afflicted with this contagious virus do not have much choice. And those who have gotten ill have even less of a choice.

David and I have developed a rhythm to our days and weeks. I am working for the church from home, which gives structure to my weekdays. When spring weather arrived, David began working on turning our backyard into an edible landscape using permaculture methods. I usually make dinner, and then after dark we have been playing games. Right now our two favorite games are “Ticket to Ride” and “Splendor” but we are about to roll out Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan again. The other night we assembled a jigsaw puzzle for variety. The evenings when we engage in something inconsequential, it has been allowing me a break from the weighty matters of what is happening in our community, country, and world. Because there isn’t a lot I can do for the common good except for staying home, this is a necessary (and hopefully healthy) break.

As with so many others, David and I get by with having a good laugh once in a while. One day, David was looking out over a hillside dotted with cattle. He made the remark, “Oh look, the cows are maintaining their social distance.” That gave me a good laugh when I imagined they are not just wanting their own green grass to graze on, they are purposely keeping their distance from one another. I include a photo:

Photo by Saloma Furlong

On a more serious note, the nature of my job has changed. Two weeks ago on Friday, the decision was made at the church that the pastors and staff should work from home. So now instead of spending the week in the building managing the office, I find myself putting together email groups and communicating with parishioners throughout the week. Like most other churches, our service is being broadcast into our homes instead of us going to the church for worship services. There have been times when I am watching the service from my computer that tears just stream down my cheeks. I grieve the loss of being in the presence of others. I miss this just about more than anything else.

I have to say the last three Sundays, the worship services have been profound, despite the fact that (or perhaps because) I couldn’t be in the physical space of the sanctuary worshiping with others in the place we are accustomed to. You can listen to one, two, or all three on the website of Park View Mennonite Church by following the link.

A number of women in the church are actively sewing masks for themselves, others, and for the professionals who are short on masks to protect themselves and their patients. Someone in the community asked for 1000 masks for the first responders in Harrisonburg. That order will be filled this week. Now there are those at the hospital who want cloth masks as well. Part of our job at the church is matching up the supply with the demand.

Last night I read several articles that quite upset me. It has to do with those in my original culture who refuse to isolate for the common good. I know the Amish are not the only ones who are resisting the call to stay at home, but it’s the scale of the gatherings among the Amish that could be like squirting gasoline on a fire someone else is trying to extinguish.

The first article I read happened in Michigan, in which several hundred Amish people gathered for a wedding. The second had to do with a horse auction in which more than six hundred Amish and Mennonites gathered.

There has been discussion on this blog before about the willful disregard for secular laws among the Amish. The prevailing attitude in their communities is that those rules do not apply to them. And because they believe that everything is in God’s hands, it absolves them of taking responsibility for their health and well-being, or for anyone else’s. For those Amish who disregard science out of hand, neither statistics nor the consequences of the contagious nature of the coronavirus are going to leave an impression on them. Even though most of them don’t intentionally have a disregard for the health and well-being of others, that is how it comes across. Some Amish man’s horse auction is more important to him than canceling the auction and potentially saving hundreds of thousands of people from contracting Covid-19. And yes, weddings are important, but hundreds do not need to be present. Everyone needs to make sacrifices during this pandemic, and some are not doing their part — the Amish communities involved in these two situations are among them.

I get it that isolating ourselves from others is not easy. The loss of some of my personal freedoms has triggered memories from my childhood and teen years when I often felt trapped in a family in which I had to try to protect myself from violence from my father, my mother, and my older brother. A slip of the tongue or letting my anger for my situation show was treacherous. I remind myself that I am not in that situation now. Even though I have to be isolated from all others, David and I still have one another, which I am ever so grateful for. There are those who are in abusive relationships and now they find themselves truly trapped. I pray for all those who find themselves in such a situation.

I have a friend named Linda Crockett who wrote a poignant blog post about how the Covid-19 situation can trigger trauma for abuse survivors. You can read it by following the link.

I have a question for my dear readers. How have you been coping with the changes forced on you with the arrival of the pandemic?

David and I went out on Wednesday to pick up prescriptions and groceries. We were amazed at how many people were out and about. We looked at one another and said, “Did Governor Northam give a “stay-at-home order or not?” It made us realize that to be safe, we need to stay at home as much as possible — both for our own good, and for the common good.

All that said, this is not easy. Even introverted people find this difficult. And yet we do what must be done with the hope that we will get through this. Perhaps we cannot go back to the way things were before. Maybe we will have divided our memories into the before and the after of the pandemic, but let us hope that we will be able to regain the freedom of eating meals together, worshiping together, grieving our losses, and celebrating our lives. I look forward to that day, whether it is next month, in six months, or in a year or more.


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