March 12th: A Word from the Regional Exec Minister
I received this message from Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, the ABC Wisconsin Regional Executive Minister and Rev. Dr. John Jones IV, Assistant Regional Minister of Education. It is a really excellent piece on the pandemic that I want to share with you. -Rev. David Gregg ---
The emergence and spread the novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as designated by the World Health Organization, has faith leaders considering appropriate response and responsibility. This developing situation reminds us of the interconnectedness of the world in which we live. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all connected as part of God’s good creation. People of faith respond to such developing situations with compassion and care first, rather than fear and panic, because of the courage that faith inspires.
As with any developing situation, some media reports can be more harmful than helpful, inspiring fear and anxiety, even outright panic. As people of faith, we are called to remember two important tasks in such situations:
1. We are call to respond first as Christians, as the church, the body of Christ. The first response is compassion and concern, undergirded by prayer and service. Our first impulse is courage, compassion and faithfulness. Those principles, rather than fear and panic, guide our decisions and actions moving forward. Bias and racial profiling often accompany public crises, as they have in this case. Resist and renounce these temptations in your response to the crisis.
2. Because of our first response, we are called to inform ourselves about the reality of the developing situation and about known best practices for dealing with the situation in a coherent and faithful way. We must draw on reliable resources for guidance in both preparing for and dealing with this developing situation.
With those two tasks in mind, these words of encouragement and resources for discernment are offered to American Baptist Churches.
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, NRSV)
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of your says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16, NRSV)
Listen to the Scriptures and the tradition that speak our identity into existence. The Scriptures remind us of who we are in times of crisis: those who respond. However and whatever the response, may we remember first and foremost who (and whose) we are.
Pray for those infected by the coronavirus in China and around the world.
Pray with gratitude for those who care for them.
Pray with gratitude for health specialists and authorities who are combatting the spread of infection.
Pray for government officials and leaders to have the wisdom necessary to make necessary and informed decisions out of care for the public good, particularly the most vulnerable.
Pray for all who at this time are feeling anxious.
This guidance for all individuals of basic protective measures is drawn from the World Health Organization, and other widely available communications.
-Stay home if you are feeling sick
-Wash your hands frequently
-Maintain social distancing
-Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
-Practice respiratory hygiene
-Bleach, alcohol, Lysol and other basic disinfectants are good to use to clean
doorknobs, handles, faucets and counter tops.
-Have a good supply of fluids, healthy food, decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen for fevers.
-Have a first aid kit, flashlight, and space blanket in your car.
-If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early
Be prepared to close the church should government officials call for it. These suggested modifications of church practice for administration and leadership are taken from the statement from the Wisconsin Council of Churches.
Handshakes and Hugs
-Adapt your practice of Passing the Peace and/or greeting to eliminate handshakes or hugs. Consider gestures of peace (model a peace sign, arms folded over heart, ‘holy wave’ or hands-folded-in-prayer gesture), elbow bump, smile, or institute a song of peace instead of touching hands.
-Avoid shaking hands and encourage the congregation to greet one another with a smile and a hand over their hearts as a symbol of Christian love.
-If it has been your practice to hold hands for a prayer, song or benediction, it would be a prudent time to introduce a new practice that does not involved physical touch.
-Similarly, forego shaking hands in a greeting line after worship if that is your custom.
Consider your Eucharistic practices, and use those which reduce the risk of transmission.
-Have officiants and communion ministers sanitize their hands before serving
-Serve by intinction in which the communion minister dips the host or break in to the wine or juice and hands it to the communicant (not touching their hands)
-Offer individual cups and pre-cut bread or host at all stations, the server handing the bread to the communicant
-Remind those who are particularly concerned that receiving any part of the sacrament is full participation. According to historic ecumenical teachings, having Communion “in one kind”- receiving the bread/host only- is still receiving communion, if they are concerned about germs contaminating wine or juice. Instruct your members as to the proper procedure- crossing arms over the chest, leaving the communion rail before receiving the chalice, or skipping the chalice bearer’s station- according to your preferences.
-If you offer refreshments during coffee hour or communal meals, have the kitchen host serve food to guests rather than having them self-serve from a large platter or buffet line.
A final, overarching word of encouragement: address any and all changes to typical practices directly, with candor and sensitivity.