Editor's Note: Due to the pandemic, at a time when people most need the comfort of their house of worship, most services have been canceled. We reached out to Rev. Seth Jones in Rockland asking him to provide a message of hope for readers. We would like this to become a space welcome to all faiths, that rotates between local pastors, rabbis and any other faith leaders who want to contribute. Email News Director Daniel Dunkle, ddunkle@villagesoup.com or call 706-6530 to sign up to contribute a message to this column.

On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. My wife and I were in New York City at the time, visiting our daughter.

While there, my wife got sick, exhibiting all the symptoms of the new virus. In the meantime, the town of New Rochelle, just outside the city, was locked down by the National Guard. Businesses were shutting down. Borders started closing. We had to leave the next morning, cutting our visit short.

Once we got into Maine, my wife was told by her doctor to just keep driving and once home, stay home. The whole journey was shot through with anxiety and fear and the unknown. To be honest, it was a terrifying experience. My wife was the guinea pig for the testing tent at Pen Bay Medical, and her test for COVID-19 came back negative.

That Saturday, March 14th, I cancelled all services and in-person meetings at the church, following recommendations from the CDC and fellow pastors. It was an incredibly difficult decision, but the right decision.

Now, hopefully, all of us are limiting our travel to essential places, and staying at home, self-isolating, socially distancing – all of us doing things we never imagined at the beginning of March. It is a condition we now share with billions of people around the world.

For many days at the beginning of all this, the primary feeling I was aware of was anxiety, laced with fear. It has been said by many a philosopher of the modern age that this is the Age of Anxiety. More often than not, anxiety is the feeling of waiting for an experience to marry itself to in our lives, rather than the experience creating anxiety. But this, a global pandemic – this is beyond anything we have experienced before as a world. As we go deeper into social distancing and staying at home, this will get harder and harder. Likely, our anxiety levels will rise with the experience.

As a Christian pastor, I look to what Jesus might have to say about situations engulfed with anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (Mt 6:25-34).

Jesus had a lot to worry about, and the world he and the disciples lived in was deeply troubled by the Roman Empire, extensive poverty, and widespread suffering. Anxiety ran deep in his day and age. But Jesus relied on the depths of his trust in God and his vision of what God wishes for all humankind, and that relationship with God gave us the gift of his words, which tell us to not worry, to not be filled with anxiety.

In the middle ages, a British woman named Julian of Norwich became an "anchorite." Anchorites were women who devoted their lives to prayer and to God. Julian lived in a cell built onto the side of a church. The cell faced a busy walkway in the town of Norwich. The people of the town would stop by and share their worries and anxieties with Julian. Julian was deeply inspired by the verse from Matthew. After she listened to the people who stopped by her window, she would pray for them and then say a single phrase. She would say, “All shall be well. All shall be well. In all things, all shall be well.” Her words, and Jesus’, are what we need to remind ourselves over and over again during this crisis. Together they make a powerful and comforting prayer.

O Lord of Creation and all people, we ask that your healing be upon us. Heal those who are suffering especially in body from the virus that has swept our world. Guide the doctors and nurses who care for them, and help them know your calming presence. Heal those who are suffering in mind from the worry and anxiety this pandemic has brought into our lives. We share with the whole world right now the fears for the future and unknown. Let us welcome the words of Jesus into our mind, body and soul and trust that we need not worry, that you, O Lord, care for us, just as you care for the birds and the lilies of the field. Let us remember, with Julian, that all shall be well, all shall be well, and that in you, all things shall be well. Amen.