Fear of Y2K offers opportunity for practical ministry

Published March 1, 1999

MUCH HAS BEEN written in recent months about the possibility of chaos and confusion at the turn of the millennium due to our dependence on computers for almost everything related to our modern lifestyles. It is a certainty that much more will be written and said in the coming months.

A wise person once remarked, “Never prophesy unless you know.” At this point no one can really predict with accuracy what the consequences of this situation might be. As it has been explained to me by knowledgeable people, “It could be either a hiccup or a hurricane.”

Because of this uncertainty the “Y2K” issue is the subject of much everyday conversation, and many people are seriously thinking about what they should be doing in order to be properly prepared. Some are ignoring the issue, hoping it will go away. Others are talking about withdrawing their money from the bank, burying food supplies and buying rifles! With the popular imagination so focused on the issue, I think there is a good opportunity here for practical ministry.

One good strategy would be to organize a parish event to help people focus on this issue in an informed way. This event could have four specific purposes.

The first would be to disarm people’s fears about the spiritual issues arising form this situation. There is a lot of hype and fear mongering going on, warning of a Y2K triggered apocalyptic catastrophe as a part of God’s plan to punish us for our faithlessness. People would welcome a reasoned and sober response to this millennial madness by their clergy.

The second goal of this event could be to give people some good, hard data about the possibilities for inconvenience and disruption. A clear presentation of good information and a reasonable projection of the implications (avoiding the extemes of biblical cataclysm on the one hand, and the ostrich response of ignoring the whole thing on the other) would be very helpful. Most congregations would have some qualifed people who would enjoy gathering this information and helping to present it.

The third goal could be to provide people with an opportunity to think about what they should do in order to be prepared personally, and also what the parish could do in order to respond as a community, committed to helping one another. A key consideration here would be those who live on the economic margins, (the “widows and orphans” to use biblical terminology) who would be greatly relieved to know that their church community will be there to assist them in the event of difficulty.

A fourth goal could be to think about some ways the church might use this as an opportunity to build bridges of service and communication in to the local community by offering good information and promises of practical help in the event of disruption. Such practical assistance could do a lot to raise the profile of your church in the local community.

Whether you use this strategy or devise a better one for your own situation, I think it is clear that we have a wonderful opportunity for ministry here. Let’s make sure that we use it.

Canon Harold Percy is rector of Trinity Anglican Church, Streetsville, Ont., and the author or several books on evangelism.


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