Friends, I am interrupting my planned newsletter topics to address the coronavirus. By now, you’ve heard that this novel disease is a global pandemic, with the number of cases growing daily. As of this past Thursday when I wrote this, Jefferson County had no known cases. I expect that change any minute.
There have been so many cancellations at this point that it’s honestly hard to keep up with all the different organizations who are self-sequestering. I know it may seem like an overreaction, but there is actually some sense to this. Covid-19 is a social virus. To catch it, a person has to be in contact with or in the vicinity of someone who has it. Since the virus can live outside the body for days, in some cases, limiting exposure is key to avoiding it and slowing its progress. When we are able to slow the progress and limit the number of people who get sick, that has the effect of NOT overwhelming hospitals and other medical providers. But if we continue with business as usual, we risk overwhelming the system, which will, in turn, cause even more people to be sick (see the image below). This is called “flattening the curve.”
To that end, every social organization has some responsibility to act in the best interest of others. So far, we are not considering cancelling any event or worship service. I consider that a kind of “last option.” For now, we encourage the following:
Use Your Discretion. If you’re nervous about going out, don’t feel obligated to come to worship or any other church activity. If you’re worshiping under compulsion and all you can focus on is everything BUT worship, it would be better to stay at home. If you don’t want to miss the message but feel more comfortable staying home, you can listen here.
Wash Your Hands. We’re clear on this by now, right?
We are suspending communion. In recent days, you may have heard me say that I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick from the Lord’s Supper. I still believe that. However, there are people who are really anxious about this pandemic. And though I had hoped to celebrate communion every service during Lent, and while I still believe that no one would get sick from the sacrament, I do not wish for any worshiper to have the physical intimacy of the Lord’s Table be a hindrance to their worship. When the threat of Coronavirus has diminished, we will resume a regular observance.
Observe Social Distancing. Social distancing is exactly like it sounds. If you are not staying home, avoid physical contact with others. People who know more than I on this matter recommend a six-foot distance between people. That’s hard to maintain, especially when we are “family,” like church. At a minimum, don’t hug or shake hands.
If you are sick, stay home. Any of us who has compromised immunity for any reason has a significantly higher risk of contracting coronavirus, the flu, and other illnesses.
Continue to Trust the Lord. God is bigger than this pandemic. And while the immediate threat is very real and very frightening, we must continue to trust in the God who has saved us. I offer these comforting words from Psalm 46:1-5
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Of course, if it seems prudent to cancel services, or if government leaders mandate such an action, we will abide by such wisdom. But until such a time, as long as I am able, I will be present to lead worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30. If anything should change, we will notify the congregation as quickly as possible.