Dear Partners in Ministry,
The growing concern over COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has raised real issues for church leaders and we thought it wise to send out some helpful information you can use in your congregations. The virus continues to impact more individuals, and government, business, and health leaders are looking at how to respond. As a community called to love our neighbors as ourselves, along with our congregations and related ministries, we are discerning appropriate courses of action that are faithful yet practical.
There is still much unknown about this virus but in the midst of the unknown we are called to be prepared and diligent about its impacts which is disproportionately affecting populations over the age of 70 as well as those who have compromised immune systems. Given this reality and growing concerns, we are attaching resources that would be helpful for your congregations and ministries. As a connected community, we invite you to share resources you find helpful with us so we can include them on our website. As you and your leadership consider your unique ministry setting, we are recommending the following considerations while gathered as communities of faith.
- In-Person Worship: One of the best means of fighting the virus is social distancing. This suggests we should consider how we do worship. Some congregations around the country have already cancelled in-person worship but that decision is completely up to you and your session.
- Online Worship: Some congregations are taking advantage of streaming worship that already exists with their congregation or looking to stream worship from other congregations. If you are thinking about starting online worship, you may find the link below helpful.
- Passing of the Peace: Refrain from shaking hands and hugging. Creatively explore alternatives for passing the peace. We can affirm God’s grace at these moments with hand signals, placing your hand over your heart, a smile, or a nod.
- Lord’s Supper: Consider postponing the sacraments during this season or work intentionally to consider carefully how you will prepare and serve communion. Gloved servers should prepare bread for the communion and you should consider using plastic cups spaced apart in trays. Communion by intinction should be avoided.
- Offering: It is probably best to stop passing the plate on Sunday mornings and, instead, place offering plates in areas designated in the sanctuary. This could also be the optimal time to set up an online giving possibility.
- Most highly impacted populations and worship: Encourage those who are currently the most affected populations to remain home. Provide ways of connecting with them through social media platforms and the telephone to avoid perpetuating isolation.
- Caring for Shut-ins: Consider using social media such as FaceTime and telephone communication to stay in touch.
- Consider innovative ways for people to worship at home: provide Lenten devotional studies, prayer guides, daily bible readings and other ways to worship at home.
- General Meetings and Gatherings: Experiment with virtual forms of community gatherings, to include social media platforms, ZOOM conferencing, Facebook LIVE, conference calls, and more.
- Leadership Response Team: Name a team to serve as guides for continued awareness and response in your community.
- Common Sense Reminders for all of us:
- If you do not feel well, please stay home from work and worship, especially if you are in a high-risk category.
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds (long enough to say the Lord’s Prayer).
The ultimate wisdom of how to engage this critical season is entrusted to the leadership of each of our congregations and ministries. You are deeply aware of the people you serve and the uniqueness of your community. May we continue to hold one another in prayer as we are once again reminded of the fragility of our global community and human connection. We are hopeful that by God’s Spirit, our faithful imaginations and hearts of compassion will enable us to discern best practices as we move through this difficult and complex reality.
Blessings on you,
Rev. Dr. John Rickard, General Presbyter and Stated Clerk
Rev. Eric Heinekamp, Associate Stated Clerk