Dear Siblings in Christ:
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Go ahead and do it again. We’re at another one of those key moments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minutes ago the Governor of Washington State closed all schools in the state until, at least, April 24th. This was done not just to protect the children at our schools but because there was a high risk that those who work with and attend our schools would spread the COVID-19 virus to their families and communities. I think the most prudent thing for us to do, whether or not we’re in Washington, is to take that as an indication of the direction things are going and follow that lead.
A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that each church put together plans to prepare for the disruption that was going to be caused by COVID-19. As part of that suggestion, I recommended following the direction of your local health department. For some of us, it was a matter of hours before we received such directions and had to put some of our plans in place. At this point, I’m suggesting that all of us put these plans into action – wherever we are in the Pacific Northwest Conference – so that we can join the effort to limit exposure to ourselves, our communities, and all those we care for and love.
At a bare minimum, I would suggest that congregations:
- Not have in-person worship for, at least, the next six weeks. I know this includes Holy Week and Easter. I mourn that with you.
- Cancel or postpone all upcoming face-to-face meetings and gatherings (including special gatherings like funerals, weddings, etc.) scheduled to take place in that same time period
- Suspend face-to-face pastoral visits and switch to video conferencing, phone calls, emails, or letters for the foreseeable future
- Put together protocols to inform congregations when members test positive that both respect the privacy of individuals and inform those who may have been exposed
- Quickly begin conversations with other groups who use your building about suspending their use of the building and, if you have the capacity, offering to share any video or phone meeting options your church may subscribe to
- Promote online and mail-in giving options
- Begin designing a recovery plan for when this is over
- Determine whether or not you would offer your church building for emergency usage if needed
That last point may become increasingly important in the coming weeks. Hospitals are quickly reaching their capacities to care for those who come to them. At some point, more space is going to be needed and, during the 1918 flu outbreak, many churches offered their space for both emergency operations and care of those infected. If this is something your church would be willing to do, please contact your local health department and send an email directly to me (email@example.com).
These days are challenging ones and they will not be without pain. However, I know we would all rather choose some pain, now, to participate in protecting others from suffering and death than to go on as usual and be part of causing suffering and death. That’s the choice in front of us. More than that, I believe this, my good siblings, is our call at this moment. One of the more conservative estimates is that, nationally, as many as 480,000 people could pass away from this infection. However, our behavior and willingness to participate in social distancing, hand washing, and disinfecting could lower this number significantly.
There will be another side of this. We will celebrate and worship together again. In the meantime, may God help us answer the call before us at this time.
——–Follow me on Twitter @denton_rev
Rev. Mike DentonConference Minister of
Pacific Northwest Conference of
The United Church of Christ
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