March 14, 2020
Dear Clergy Colleagues,
As it has become clear, the Coronavirus will get worse before it gets better. That has entailed changes in our everyday life and work, as we all seek to avoid exposure and infection with the virus.
I know that it is now Saturday evening and Sunday’s a’coming
. However, the rapidly evolving face of the Coronavirus Pandemic means that continual reevaluation of safety procedures is necessary. I am making several recommendations for those of you who are leading worship in local churches tomorrow and for the next several Sundays.
- While it is likely too late to contact people before tomorrow morning’s worship, I am asking that you consider suspending in-person worship services until the end of March or until it is deemed safe. This will limit exposure to new infections.
- If you do worship in person, strongly urge people not to hug or touch each other during passing the peace. Elbow bumps or “foot shakes” are fine.
- Unless your sanctuary is full, please encourage people not to sit right next to non-family members.
- I recommend not having coffee and refreshments after church. This will also limit opportunities for close physical contact and possible infection.
- Promote electronic giving, if you have it. (Options include: Tithely, Givelify, Pushpay, MobileCause, Vanco, Venmo, or Stripe.)
- Use social media to remain connected with parishioners. Meeting options include Facebook Groups, Google Hangout, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, or other online tools.
- If you have live streaming, use it! Or encourage your congregation to tap into live streaming from a neighboring UMC church. You might consider Facebook Live (video instruction) [directions from Facebook]
- If you discover any specific needs among the most vulnerable in your church community, please reach out so that people can be connected to resources for spiritual, physical or emotional supports. Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck is ready to assist you in this.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is a very serious health issue in the US as well as in other countries. As many of our Iowa colleges, universities, and public schools have demonstrated by closing for a time, so, in the church, we must be wise as well. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus
.” We relieve anxiety by being well-prepared and being ready to quickly adapt.
At the same time as we desire to provide vital worship for our parishioners, we must also be as diligent as possible to keep them safe, especially those who are vulnerable. Please know how much I love and respect you and your ministry. If you have any questions, please contact your district superintendent.
Dear God, we know that you are a healing God and that you desire for all of us to be whole and healthy human beings. We ask that you be present to our one human family at this time of crisis. Please walk beside doctors and nurses who are caring for those who have been infected by the coronavirus and give them strength for the day ahead. We also ask that those who are receiving treatment and feel isolated or hopeless would experience your healing power as they recover. Protect all families around the world, and may we continue to support one another as lives and plans are disrupted. Most of all, use us as instruments of your peace and hope.