Companionship: How We Can Still Walk Alongside Each Other During COVID-19 Self-Seclusion

By Deaconess Carole Terkula, Ministry Associate at The Lutheran Foundation

At the end of February, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on “The Companionship Movement: A Practice of Presence” by Pathways to Promise. The workshop focused on developing relationships with others who may be experiencing isolation and suffering for a variety of reasons and supporting them in a compassionate way. Little did I realize then how timely this information would prove to be in these days of COVID-19!

The Companionship model is intended for face-to-face interaction; however, I’ve been contemplating over the past week or so how one could implement the principles learned and apply them during this time of COVID-19 self-seclusion. I have discovered that much of what I learned is relevant and applicable to our current state of physical isolation in which many people’s mental well-being is affected by an increased level of anxiety stemming from uncertainty and fear.

The principles of Companionship are rooted in our natural capacity to be sensitive, concerned, compassionate, and caring. Therefore, we are still able to be a Companion to another even though we may not be able to have intimate face-to-face gatherings or discussions. Here are three Companionship practices we can all apply:

  • Neighboring: The practice of neighboring invites us to discover what we have in common with another person while treating them with dignity and respect. Consider the following question: “What are some current common shared feelings and experiences during this COVID-19 self-isolation period that I can discuss with someone else?” Ask the other person how he/she is really feeling—chances are, you are feeling or have felt that way too. Sometimes the act of verbalizing our deepest emotions helps reduce the level of anxiety and stress we are experiencing. It helps to know we are not alone.
  • Listening: The practice of active listening involves letting the other person share his/her emotions, anxieties, and fears without interruption, judgment, or advice. Remember that perhaps the greatest gift you can give someone at this time if the gift of true listening!
  • Accompaniment: The practice of accompaniment involves listening for what the other person says is his/her need and supporting the person by building a circle of care through connection to community resources. Consider the following question: “How can I be a helpful resource to this person during COVID-19?” Perhaps you yourself can provide some basic help to another by delivering a meal, sharing your church’s or Worship Anew’s website link for online worship services, or by simply praying with that person. I have found that praying with and for another person out loud is a beautiful gift—and it doesn’t cost a cent!

Please take a moment and think of someone you know in your church, neighborhood, family, or circle of friends who might be feeling the stress of prolonged isolation at this time, and then consider how you might be able to “walk alongside” that person in a caring way by implementing the Companionship practices mentioned above via a phone call, text, Skype, or Facetime message.

For more information about Pathways to Promise Companionship Movement, please visit www.pathways2promise.org.