TAMPA, FL – Despite all the losses, challenges and restrictions brought on by the coronavirus, some faith leaders are leaning in to help find solutions to common problems. In honor of Pope Francis’ historic papal document about the environment, Catholic and evangelical clergy have gathered online to discuss ways to overcome climate change and disease outbreaks.
In Florida, Dr. Joel Hunter is a retired senior pastor of megachurch “Northland, A Church Distributed” in Longwood. He participated in the forum organized by the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, and says he came away with some positive ideas.
“This is challenging churches to become healthier, more hopeful, and to reengage the command of Jesus when he said, ‘Go ye into all the world,'” says Hunter. “So, they’re kind of exciting.”
The pope’s encyclical called for dialogue among religions on protecting the environment and helping the poor. The virtual meeting, which also included an infectious disease specialist, focused on ways the Christian community can work together to reach those goals.
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Hunter is also the chairman of the Community Resource Network, an agency that helps homeless families, and says he’s thankful for those who’ve stepped up to help the vulnerable homeless population throughout the pandemic.
“To provide for people who are coming in, there’s lots of churches doing community work now and they’ve kind-of redoubled their efforts of service,” says Hunter. “So, overall it really touches your heart, you know, at a time of national crisis how people come together.”
Hunter adds many people are coming together online. He says he’s hearing from pastors trying to figure out how to sustain an uptick of potential new parishioners who are logging into church services being held online. He thinks by forcing people to think outside the box, the current crisis could lead to a lot of good in the future.