I am writing this column in the fourth week of March. Only 14 days have passed since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, and it feels like the entire world went into isolation.
Here at Broadview, we packed up our desks and headed home, anxious about what the coming weeks would bring. Between online meetings and other work, we watched the news alerts grow more dire and the warnings to isolate more stringent.
The spread of the virus also made us question the articles we had planned for this issue. Would it be insensitive to run a cover story about advance requests for medical assistance in dying (MAID) when so many people would succumb to COVID-19? Would it be tone-deaf to publish a piece about thriving churches while ministers scramble to keep their congregations together through livestream services?
We considered scrapping most of what we had scheduled and starting over. But we’re not a breaking-news organization. We typically start planning our print lineups about five months in advance, and nearly all of our stories for this issue — and the next one — had been written and edited by the time the crisis hit.
Moreover, we wondered what we could say from the vantage point of mid-March that would still be relevant to you in early May, when this issue arrives in mailboxes and on newsstands. It was impossible to guess what the world would look like six weeks into the future when each week seemed to contain a year’s worth of bad news and upheaval.
More on Broadview: Making editorial decisions in a pandemic
Amid the uncertainty, we turned our attention to digital coverage, stepping up our efforts to provide timely content to you through our website and social media channels.
We also made space in this issue for some early reflections on the virus. I ditched my original column and wrote this one instead.
But we ultimately concluded that although MAID and thriving churches may feel out of step with reality right now, these topics, and the questions they raise, won’t go away while we are all focused on a more pressing danger. (That said, look for a feature package in the next issue about how faith communities have rallied together to meet this enormous challenge.)
I’m painfully aware that our struggle to make the right editorial decisions pales in comparison to the many ways this pandemic will impact our lives. Some of us will be grieving loved ones lost to the virus, or worrying about those who are ill. Others will be struggling with isolation and anxiety. Many will be coping with financial fallout. I hope we can all get through this together, as best we can. My prayers are with you.
This editorial first appeared in Broadview’s June 2020 issue with the title “Age of uncertainty.”
Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.