A Pastoral Letter on Coronavirus
Coronavirus is all over the news—perhaps you’ve noticed! Sports leagues, conferences and large gatherings have all been cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, these are strange days. I have certainly never seen anything like it, and you haven’t either. So, there’s little historical precedent for how to proceed in times like this. Over the last week, I’ve seen our country move from ignorance to apathy to skepticism. But now any skepticism has largely been swept away. And I believe that’s good.
In this letter, I wanted to outline for you, what our church community is doing to do in light of Coronavirus.
It’s important for us to keep in mind that as believers, our first response should always be motivated by love and not fear. Fear causes us to respond with self-protection—every man for himself! “But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Love causes us not to think about our own survival or well-being, but the well-being of others—our neighbors and especially those who are vulnerable. What does this mean in the days of Coronavirus?
First, this is not just about you! If you get sick from Coronavirus, chances are, you’re going to be fine. For most people, it will be like a severe flu and then you’ll be done with it. But there are many for whom Coronavirus will be much more significant. For the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, it can be a death sentence. So, while those who are physically weaker will take greater precautions, we can help by taking precautions so that we don’t become carriers or pass it along to others. The Apostle Paul in Galatians writes, “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Second, it means we take it very seriously. To this point, in my reading, we are not yet ready to cancel worship service. Of course, we are ready to make that call if those in the know recommend it, but the sources I’ve read say that groups under 100 do not need to cancel as long as they are ready to take the necessary precautions. While our attendance on Sunday is greater than 100, our attendance is scattered throughout the building, so we will continue to meet, but we will listen to public health officials and are willing to cancel or do livestream-only service if necessary.
Third, while we will meet, things will look different for a while. Tonight, I will be meeting with some ministry leaders and those in our congregation who are well-informed about infectious diseases to work out the full details, but here are some of the precautions we will take. Please read them carefully, because not all of them are the church’s responsibility. Some of them are up to you!
· Wash your hands often and as much as you can, refrain from touching your face. Be diligent about this! Good hygiene is the first and best weapon against any virus.
· Keep handshakes (and holy kisses) to a minimum if at all. A sincere elbow tap or loving nod will do the trick! We will be instructing our greeters on this as well.
· For the foreseeable future, before and after services, we will be wiping down all surfaces that are commonly touched like tables, chairs, pews, stage equipment, door handles, Bibles and hymnals, etc. Be ready because we may call on you to help with these efforts.
· We ask that you do not come to worship if you are sick. In fact, before you come to church, you might even take your temperature. Some organizations are taking people’s temperature at the door. We will not do that (yet), but if there are signs of sickness, join us on the Livestream. If you watch on YouTube (www.youtube.com/waiteparkchurch) make sure you check in and say hi—which at this point is even better than a handshake!
· We won’t be passing the plates during offering, but will have an offering basket at the back of the sanctuary. We ask that if you are able, give online, but please refrain from putting cash in the offering.
· Be sure to pray for our world amid this global crisis. God can do wonders in situations like this!
Finally, we don’t know what the longer-term effect of this will be for our economy. The stock markets have all been affected and some companies (not including Purell and Charmin) are feeling the pinch. That might also mean that some of our own members will also feel the pinch. This would be a good time to consider contributing to the Benevolence Fund at the church. The Benevolence fund is simply money set aside for the specific purpose of helping those experiencing financial need. You can give to the fund and if you find yourself struggling financially, let us know and we will do what we can to help. This money is only used for help individuals and families in need. You can do this in the offering or online. Just make sure you designate it for Benevolence.
Yes, these are strange days, but God is still on the throne! The Church’s finest hours have been during times of great fear and sickness. Let’s “go be the Church” by each doing our part to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus in our neighborhood and world!