The Episcopal Church in Navajoland Copes with Rising Pandemic
“The teaching I grew up with is that when you hear the first thunders of Spring, you pause, take in a few deep breaths, and stretch with all of creation,” says Ms. G.J. Gordy, a parishioner and lay leader at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Coal Mine, New Mexico. “But this Spring, our world is hurting.”
Fears that the coronavirus would run rampant in Navajoland have tragically been realized: the Navajo Nation has experienced a death rate per capita from Covid-19 that is among the highest in the nation. With a high prevalence of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease—and few health care facilities located within the borders of the Navajo Nation—the Navajo are particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of the pandemic.
The Episcopal Church in Navajoland (ECN) spans regions in three states, with nine churches spread over more than 27,000 miles of rugged, beautiful, high-desert lands. ECN serves hundreds of individuals and families with direct service ministries and pastoral care. In response to the needs of parishioners and their communities during the pandemic, ECN has reached out with food deliveries, home worship kits, check-ins on elders, and extensive on-line prayer and worship services. Through block grants and fundraising assistance, the Episcopal Church Center helps to support ECN’s efforts.
“We as clergy are experiencing new and creative ways of sharing the Gospel of love, hope, and harmony,” Rev. Cornelia Eaton, Canon to the Ordinary in the Episcopal Church in Navajoland says. “We are all responding to the spiritual needs in our communities in the safest ways we are able.”
The Church is also working to ease some of the economic pain for families brought on by travel restrictions, business closures, and unemployment, which was already well above the national average before the pandemic struck.
“The church is not a building, it is the people,” the Rev. Kay Rhode, Vicar of St. Christopher’s in Bluff, Utah, says. Providing groceries, personal care items, water, and firewood to people in need are just some of the ways that the Episcopal Church in Navajoland is working to aid the community, one neighbor at a time.
Visit the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to learn more about Church’s work and current needs of the Diné.