As we have all watched the news recently and seen the spread of a novel coronavirus, COVID- 19, around the world, many people have expressed concerns over this disease and the potential for it to disrupt our normal, daily lives. As the church, we are called to not give into fear, but to equip ourselves with knowledge so that we can be prepared to respond appropriately should the need arise.
The most important recommendation to share is that if you are sick, regardless of why you are sick, you are encouraged to stay home and go see your primary care physician. In addition to COVID-19, we are experiencing a bad flu season and many of our congregants have pre-existing conditions which could make them susceptible to any illness. Taking proper care of ourselves also helps us take care of one another.
Some have expressed concern about how this new disease might impact our worship services. At this time, there is no evidence to support radical changes to our worship service or to encourage altering worship practices. There are, however, some practices that are always a good idea to consider when thinking about worship. For example, the use of hand sanitizer after the passing of the peace and before communion are easy ways to help limit the spread of illness in general. Congregations may wish to review their communion practices, perhaps avoiding intinction, the most susceptible to contamination, or having the communion minister dip the bread into the wine and hand it to the worshipper. Additionally, some may choose to only receive communion through the bread, a perfectly acceptable practice in the Lutheran tradition. When it comes to passing the peace, some individuals may choose to do so verbally or with gestures instead of shaking hands.
Again, we want to stress that we should not give into fear. As Bishop Eaton has so often reminded us, we are called to be church together. Our identity in Christ is fundamentally communal and as there are more cases, we should not push away those who are sick or may have been exposed. While there are proper precautions that should be taken, we should continue to love and support our siblings in the faith and not stigmatize them. Instead we should identify how to continue to minister and support them through prayer, phone calls, and material support if they are being asked to self-isolate.
There are many things we still do not know about this new disease, but we should continue to work to be prepared and to support our siblings who are being impacted as well as supporting those who are working to address this disease.
Here are some other resources you might wish to consider when discerning your next most faithful step regarding the coronavirus: