Last Sunday, hundreds of American churches closed their doors to congregants, many of whom watched via livestream. It may be like this for weeks. That same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to congregate in groups larger than 50.

These types of restrictions will have significant repercussions for many churches, where groups of 50 or larger gather on a weekly basis, especially with Easter just weeks away. As church leaders and pastors wrestle with these restrictions as well as navigating weddings and funerals, there’s a larger question we wanted to explore: What type of opportunity does a pandemic like this allow Christians to be remembered for?

A strong empathy for the suffering of other people characterized much of the church’s response to sickness during the Roman Empire, says Gary Ferngren, a history professor at Oregon State University who studies the social history of ancient medicine, religion, and ancient medicine.

“The compassionate model in health care is, I think, the very distinctive contribution that Christians have made,” said Ferngren.

Ferngren joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and president and CEO Tim Dalrymple to discuss the state of health care in the Roman era, why the Christian response to the plague of Cyprian stood out, and how Christians came together to open hospitals.

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Quick to Listen is produced by Morgan Lee and Matt Linder

The transcript is edited by Bunmi Ishola

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