Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As a Region we are concerned with Congregational Life given the Coronavirus Outbreak. Along with our concern to slow the transmission of the virus, and with some
recommendations from our state health authorities, we are encouraging our congregations to consider cancelling worship service this Sunday and possibly future Sundays depending on the counsel of our state health department. We believe it is important to help minimize the spread of the virus. One way to accomplish this is to practice social distancing as well as exercising proper hygiene practices.
In Richard Spelth’s message, Regional Minister of Indiana, he notes, “the cancellation of worship does not necessarily mean that all events in the congregation’s life should also be suspended. Food pantries that serve the poor may need to continue to provide support to our neighbors. Different decisions may need to be made regarding pre-schools and daycares hosted in our buildings, and other events that bring together smaller groups of persons. But our worship life may unknowingly put some or all of us at increased risk.”
To share the words of Disciples minister David Shirey, who now serves as Senior Minister of Central Christian Church, Lexington, KY who writes regarding his congregation’s decision to temporarily suspend their services:
Our rationale for these decisions derives from principles grounded in our faith mandate to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Simply stated, “In this circumstance, what does love require?”
- Love requires us to protect the vulnerable.
This virus puts the elderly and people with compromised health conditions at special risk. Like me, our congregation’s senior members are motivated by a fervent desire and unwavering commitment to worship God together. I and they will make every effort, regardless of the risk or cost, to be present for worship, feeling guilty if we do not make such an effort. Cancelling corporate worship this Sunday and offering a service available for home viewing safeguards our most vulnerable and relieves the deeply ingrained impetus to worship weekly.
- Love calls for us to seek the common good.
By voluntarily taking a sacrificial action such as cancelling corporate worship, we love our neighbors by doing our part to take an action that we hope will slow down the spread of the virus, thereby preventing as-yet-healthy persons from contracting the virus or making it easier for infected persons who may not yet know of the infection to spread it unknowingly to others.
- Love calls for us to act in solidarity with persons of good will.
Heeding the Kentucky Governor’s request and heeding the best wisdom of public health officials, we join a community-, state-, nation- and worldwide coalition of concerted caring whose cooperative efforts will the well-being of all people.
- Love calls for actions that minimize regret.
If we were to proceed with events or activities that lead to the infection of persons or the unwitting spread of the virus, we would rue the decision to proceed with “business as usual” when we could have chosen otherwise. Though it is debatable whether faith communities cancelling their services this weekend will indeed make a difference for the good, we can proceed with this decision knowing we did not choose to disregard or ignore this call for vigilance and caution.
There are alternatives for in-person worship. You can bring your community together online using Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube, or freeconferencecall.com etc. You can also share the weekly worship service that is provided by DisciplesNet, an on-line Disciples congregation. Their website is www.disciplesnet.org
To quote Rick Spelth again, “If you decide to continue with worship services, encourage the most at-risk people in your congregation to stay home. That includes people over 60, people with heart, kidney, or lung disease, and those with chronic respiratory conditions. And continue to practice the safe handling of communion and in your coming together minimize contacting and touching others.”
Our recommendation for considering an alternative worship experience is also reflected in the decisions of Nursing Homes to severely limit visitors, the suspension of sports events, college classes and even Disney. Please take the precautions that you deem as appropriate for you and your congregation.
You are encouraged to monitor the information about this virus at the Illinois Department of Public Health , Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We pray that God may continue guiding us as we make decisions for ourselves and those we serve. And may we remain in prayer for God’s strength and healing.
Peace be with you,
Eli Rolón Jeong