A diapause is an indefinite period of time of suspended development in insects, invertebrate, or mammalian embryos, during seasons of unfavourable environmental conditions. The term “diapause” was coined by a German entomologist in 1893 to describe such a period of temporary limbo during the embryonic development of insects. He observed that insects had two cycles of rotation in their egg shells and would rotate first in a clockwise direction, and if conditions were favourable, they would, while still inside the egg shell, rotate counter-clockwise in preparation for their hatching. The pause between the two rotations, was a “diapause” (Philogène, 2008). Some insects have been documented to diapause for a period as long as 2 years.

With the onset of COVID-19, the world appears to have entered into a state of induced diapause. There is a sense of waiting, of wondering what is about to happen next. This has had adverse affects on people struggling with anxiety and mental health issues. Taken out from their routine, or locked in mandatorily, the world has had to adapt to the seasonal changes in a rapid and unprecedented manner. The Church too has suffered from this diapausal state of affairs. Taken away from the physical building of the Church, the clergy were faced with challenges of how to minister to their flock, to continue their outreach efforts, to fundraise so as to survive, to maintain the daily operations of the Church, to deploy the people in new ways, and to build the Church as the People of God, as opposed to being a field or building. The Poor of the Church – those who had no access to technologies that would connect them online, those who had no food, or income security, were most affected, and the Church tried to navigate new ways of meeting and connecting with them. Nonetheless, as the Church grapples with the new reality of the season, it is inevitable that the missed opportunities to connect and to be Church amidst the disruption, would have their ramifications, as some of the flock would have been forever lost during this time. At a lost, some clergy and ministers had taken to keeping the fragile balance of what they knew, and what they had. Choosing to ignore the sheep that had fallen away, they tried to maintain some sort of normalcy in their small communities – their faithful flock who would bother to sign up for slots at online prayers or community meetings, or who were in regular attendance at the Eucharistic celebrations – same old people, doing the same old things, and yet ironically expecting people and youth to be fired up and to return to the Church in droves. The collateral damage is clear – in trying to maintain the status quo, and myopically ignoring the unearthed issues, the Church will have to bear the cost and the guilt of not doing enough. The caveat is this: the signs of decline and decay had been present for a while, yet in the inertia and complacency, little was done to prepare and ready ourselves for the onslaught of the harsh season. We were not ready, but we were also not taking steps to be ready. This has led to a last-minute scramble to firefight and to salvage the situation.

Beyond these management issues. The social isolation and the diminished human connection has had a toil on the people of the Church. As Sharlyn Neo, a parishioner of the Church of St. Michael states, “COVID-19 has affected everyone in the organisation. Now we cannot greet each other with loving hugs. We have to social distance and there is no fellowship. This has affected us big time.” There is only so much a mediated presence using online conferencing tools can do. Community is built with real presence. Friendships are forged in proximity.  This is especially pertinent to youth and children who need concrete and tangible ways of experiencing the Faith and the Community of the Faithful. With the lack of fellowship, supper and late-night conversations, social bonding, meal-times, lived-in retreats and camps, and prayer times in situ and in real time, together, a void has emerged and as many youth coordinators across the archdiocese have lamented – there is a need to re-start from scratch and from ground zero,  the relationship and rapport-building work that they had spend years to achieve.

On the ground and closer home, the parish of the Church of St. Michael has been exploring new and innovative ways to connect and to reconnect with the people in its vicinity. On the 17th of October 2020, a group of parishioners embarked on an outreach mission to distribute welfare and care packages to the neighbours living within the immediate boundaries of the parish. This was done in a contactless manner, while adhering to safety measures. Little thoughtful packages had been put together and placed at the door grilles of the people. This small gesture was important in letting people know that the Church still cared for them, and that they were still loved by God and were not alone in this difficult time.

For insects, they can subsist in a state of limbo and diapause, yet for the Church, we must begin to take actionable and intentional steps to build community and to build the software and the heartware of the Church. While the Lord is ensuring that the seeds, hidden under the surface of the ground are growing in an invisible and background way, we as the People of the Church need to wake up from our dormancy and hibernation, before it is too little and too late and we are lamenting the regret of an empty, dead Church building. We need to be that visible sign of Christ’s hopefulness and joy. It will only be wishful thinking if we say, “Someone else will do it.” If it is not you who is to build community during this crucial time, who is it going to be?

While this time appears to be a time of inactivity and silence, the Christian may take hope that God for sure is doing something amazing in the background. It is the hope of the Christian that will triumph and we draw quiet strength from that prolonged silence of the evening before Easter, where the whole of creation waits silently for the victorious emergence of Christ the King from the tomb. For the Christian, death does not have the final word, and in this diapausal season, where the ordinary things have seemed to have been suspended, greater and more urgent is this call to be a channel of hope to the people whom we meet. A community cannot happen in silo. The butterfly which remains in diapause beyond the timeframe of diapause, is dead. We need to be that butterfly which emerges from its chrysalis, ready to face the world. We have had time to prepare and we were gifted this time of development and preparation. We have no excuse for not being ready for the new chapter of Church that is about to emerge from its dormancy.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Philogène B.J.R. (2008) Diapause. Encyclopedia of Entomology. (Capinera J.L., Ed.) Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6359-6_904