St. Mark Extra!
March 13, 2020
A word from our pastor, Mark Davis
We will NOT gather this weekend for Worship

Flattening the Curve 

Due to a cautious approach to large-scale gatherings during the COVID-19 epidemic, St. Mark will offer the following online worship opportunities this weekend. 
We will not have our regular gathered worship services
this weekend.
1.      You can go to the St. Mark Facebook page on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. for a livestream worship experience. (The sanctuary itself will not be open for gathered worship this weekend.)  Click here for St. Mark’s Facebook page .
2.      You can go to the St. Mark Website any time Sunday for a broadcast of our worship service. 
3.      During that online worship experience we will explore ways for you to embrace the things you love about worship in a new way during this time of health concerns. 
I’m guessing that you have heard the phrase, “flattening the curve” recently. It refers to a diagram that was developed from a CDC paper projecting the effects of COVID-19. The solid purple curve shows anticipated effects if there is no mitigation. The striped curve shows anticipated effects if there is mitigation, such as washing hands, keeping social distance, and avoiding large-scale crowds. It is this bottom, longer curve that is intended by the phrase “flattening the curve.” (If you want to read the paper itself, it is  here .)
In many respects, the presentation and accompanying graph were the kind of analyses that are done many times over. But, something happened that changed this analysis from being the domain of a small group of experts into becoming a catchphrase. Dr. Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, added a critical marker to the graph, based on his experience with epidemic and pandemic cases. Harris drew a dotted line that showed the capacity of the US healthcare system, “to make clear what was at stake.” [1]

The result is dramatic and telling. If we enact best practices to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, the possibility would be that most of the cases of the virus would be well within the capacity of our healthcare system. If we do not, the effects would be more dramatic and, for many, much more tragic. When our healthcare system’s capacity is stretched, barriers to access fall disproportionately on the poor. 

It is incumbent upon people of faith to do what we can to “flatten the curve.” But, that approach flies directly in the face of our customary way of making decisions based primarily (if not solely) on the question of our own self-interest or our family’s self-interest. Flattening the curve requires a “neighbor-first” mentality, precisely the kind of mentality that we try to cultivate as followers of Christ.

Of course part of me is thinking, “This feels like an overreaction!” From my time in Iowa I was accustomed to cancellation decisions during a heavy snowstorm because the roads were hazardous. This is a very different case: I feel fine; you feel fine; we’re out and about; our children are busy licking the very surfaces we’re trying to sanitize – it would be easy to dismiss precautionary cancellations, even to belittle them. And, for reasons that I find puzzling beyond measure, the whole response to COVID-19 has been politicized from many different directions. 

Even so, a faithful response in times of unknowing is to consider the least, to bear patiently with those who feel differently from us, and to do the best that we can with trust that God gives us the right wisdom for the right moment. 

For that reason,  St. Mark will not have gathered worship services this weekend . We will host a Facebook Live worship service on Saturday at 5:00 p.m., and we will try to capture it for our web site, which you can access any time on Sunday. And, as usual, your Staff and Session are working to be faithful and wise in moving forward. 

Mark of St. Mark

(You can also read the Friday Blast reflections at