Dear Friends,
As you are well aware, the World Health Organization recently named the Coronavirus a global pandemic.  Some of you have inquired as to any position or advice on behalf of the District regarding public gatherings, serving communion, etc.  At this time, we are leaving such decisions to local church leadership and would encourage you to take whatever measures you feel are appropriate.  As you also know, the virus has clustered more heavily in certain areas and this makes it a more immediate concern in some places. However, exposure comes unexpectedly  so whatever proactive measures you believe necessary are understandable.
Here are some suggestions and steps other congregations have taken:
  • Suspend serving communion until further notice
  • Added cleaning and sanitizing by outside cleaning companies or volunteers, especially in the children’s areas
  • Discontinue the greeting time in services
  • Replace all handshakes, hugs or kisses with a smile, wave or elbow bump
  • Ask individuals with any sign of illness or known exposure to not attend public gatherings
  • Make bulletins or other materials available to congregants but do not have someone distributing them
  • Provide added hand sanitizer throughout the building
  • Place offering plates at back of sanctuary instead of passing them throughout the congregation
  • Remind people to practice good hygiene by washing their hands often, covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, etc.
  • If someone attends one of your gatherings and later tests positive for the virus ask them to inform you so you can minister to them (have a plan for how to do so, FaceTime or another virtual platform, drop off a care package at their door with notes, gifts, etc.)
  • Share with others if someone at your gathering was infected (you do not have to and probably should not share their name or information, but you can inform others if they were in a gathering where an individual was infected)
  • Have a plan for how you will communicate to congregants and ask them to check it often
  • Inform congregants that the situation is a fluid one and decisions are being made all the time so they’ll want to check for your communications frequently
  • Send words of reassurance, prayer and scripture to congregants if you do suspend public gatherings (your words are invaluable during a time like this)
  • Check in more often on the elderly, disabled, or at risk populations
  • Consider work at home arrangements for your church staff
  • In lieu of canceled public services consider a virtual platform (FaceTime, Zoom, etc.)

In the end, don’t be hesitant to make a decision you feel is best for all. It’s easy to “second guess” a decision but that’s better than regretting not having made the one you felt was best.

I encourage you to review these two links for additional information.  Guidelines from the CDC for Community and Faith Leaders and Christianity Today written by Stephen Ko, an Alliance pastor in NYC and a former medical officer with the CDC.

Above all, remind yourself and others that we serve a sovereign and merciful God who watches over every step we take and he does not slumber nor does he sleep. God is our Great Physician and heals all our diseases. Times like this are when the church does what it does best. We love people and show them lasting hope.

If there is anything we can do for you please let us know!

Much grace, 

Tom