UPDATE: Since this letter, the governor has declared a state of emergency and public schools have been closed. In support, the church also has suspended all in-person gatherings for outside user groups for two weeks; church meetings will take place online; and worship will be online for two weeks, March 15 & 22. These additional steps will be described more fully in the next congregational letter.
Letter #1: This letter was sent to members of the congregation on Thursday, March 12 , 2020
Dear Members and Friends,
As our inboxes fill up with letters and notices related to the coronavirus pandemic, we know you are wondering what is happening at the church, too. As new cases of covid-19 are reported in other countries and across the United States, the church is called to ministry through education, caring, and common sense.
We have made some changes around the church building:
- Reminder signs are posted in the washrooms.
- Additional Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are available throughout the building.
- Additional cleaning services are employed to clean the bathrooms daily.
- A letter to outside user-groups reminds them of the urgency of staying home if sick and sending sick participants home.
- Our long-standing policy is that when Howard County Public Schools are closed or if evening-activities are cancelled, we do the same in regard to meetings of outside user groups.
We have made some changes in worship and may yet make more:
- Rather than shake hands, we nodded, bowed, waved, bumped elbows, or signed “peace be with you” during the passing of the peace.
- The pastors greeted everyone at the end of the service without shaking hands.
- We will be receiving the offering without passing plates person to person.
- We are considering the best way to take communion without passing items person to person.
- We are thinking ahead to Holy Week and Easter, and any changes needed for those services.
- We are exploring on-line worship opportunities but have nothing yet to announce.
We have made some changes in church meetings:
- We are cancelling Sunday School classes for two weeks (3/15 and 3/22), and will re-evaluate after that.
- Church committees may choose to meet online, using the Church’s ZOOM account instead of meeting in person.
- Some church groups have decided to suspend or cancel their meetings for now.
- Earth Forum for March has been cancelled.
- The Presbytery meeting scheduled for March 19 has been cancelled.
When you are considering coming to church:
- Please stay home if you are feeling sick.
- Please stay home from church for two weeks if you have been travelling or were exposed.
- Please stay home if you are part of our most vulnerable population.
Some members of our congregation have decided to self-isolate for a few weeks, either because of work requirements to do so, their age, or due to risk conditions in their personal health. If you are staying at home, please let us know so we can keep in touch with you! If you find that you need something and would like someone to bring you a jug of milk, or pick up a prescription for you, or something like that, just let us know! Send an email to Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office.
We continue to pay attention to the overall situation and will make other changes as needed.
The following suggestions are helpful to keep in mind anytime and especially during cold and flu season.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, not your hand.
- Disinfect surfaces used regularly.
- Use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with someone who is sick, if possible.
Up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available from the:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Howard County Health Department Website
- Updates on COVID-19 , by the Howard County Public Schools
Here are a few links from the Presbyterian Church:
- “A Pastoral Statement on Coronavirus/COVID-19” , by the Presbyterian Church (USA)
- “Prayer for wisdom and peace as the coronavirus spreads” , by the Presbyterian Outlook
Other helpful links:
- “Talking to Kids about Coronavirus” , by the Child Mind Institute
- “Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource” , by the National Association of School Psychologists
- Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety , by Harvard Health Blog
As the Body of Christ, we have a special responsibility to treat our congregants and communities with compassion, kindness, and respect. Our demonstration of love of neighbor also requires us to counter scapegoating and prejudice such as already has been shown toward some nationalities.
When we are prepared, we are in a better position to help others.
Yours in Christ,
Morton, Sue, Virginia