COVID 19 Response (newspaper)

Note: this article will appear in this week’s Herald Democrat. A similar version more specific for Grace UNC will be posted online and emailed to church members.

Title: How should persons of faith respond to the new coronavirus scare?

In light of the new coronavirus and a recent diagnosis in Collin County, our church leaders believed it was time to make some temporary adjustments to Sunday morning services. To mitigate anxiety, slow down the spread of potentially harmful disease, and to do our best to ensure the health and well being of everyone who worships at Grace United Methodist Church, we will:

  • Welcome each other with a gesture: wave, nod, even a wink! instead of shaking hands. 
  • Wash hands before leaving home, immediately after entering the church, as you leave. Years ago I adopted a similar practice when visiting at the hospital. If it helps me stay healthy, that’s ok; but as a pastor, I contact so many people throughout the week. I need to take responsibility for each of those potential interactions.
  • We’re also eliminating snacks for public consumption, holding hands at the end of worship, and passing the plates for the offering.
  • We’ll explore online worship, but for those without access to online resources, I’m encouraging our church members to look after each other. We don’t want people to feel isolated or alone.

Beyond the walls of any worship community, and this includes non believers as well, we are all part of a larger collection of people. Resist any attempts to blame a particular group for this disease. I have read online of empty Asian businesses, and those of Asian descent being targeted during this crisis. My wife and I ate at our favorite local Asian restaurant the other night. I was glad to see a good number of people there. Good food brings us together! Let’s not let the sin of racism or scapegoating others deny them their full humanity. 

We’re hearing the term “social space” quite a bit. Those feeling poorly should stay home if it is at all possible. Again, do this for your own self, but also for the well being of others. And you will not hurt anyone’s feelings if they reach out their hand to shake and you politely decline. Pray for those afflicted with the disease, health care providers, those researching a possible vaccine, and for leaders to govern with the best interests of the public at heart.

I believe God beings people together: families, worship communities, societies. It is our collective responsibility to care for and nurture these relationships. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, let’s respect one another, listen to experts and do what they recommend, and believe in each other. The changes at our church and in the community are not flippant; no one is panicking. We are being good stewards of our relationships to each other and the stranger. “By this,” Jesus said, “everyone will know that you love me: if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus encouraged his followers to care for one another by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and ministering to the sick. All of these actions help us to do those things.