Sunday Worship and Our Response to COVID-19
Dear <<First Name>>,
This afternoon, the Bishop of the Baltimore Washington Conference, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, sent out a letter acknowledging the various actions that regional government leaders have taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Bishop Easterling noted that Maryland Governor Hogan and D.C. Mayor Bowser have declared states of emergency for their respective jurisdictions. (Governor Northam in Virginia did so just this afternoon.) In response, Bishop Easterling has asked that all churches within the boundaries of the District of Columbia refrain from gathering for worship for the next two weeks.
Our congregation is not within the borders of D.C. and the Bishop notes in her letter that she is leaving the decision about what to do up to the pastoral leadership of each congregation in the Conference.
I know that ours is a close-knit community in which the feelings of love and community found in our worship are strong. I also know that we have a great many members who by virtue of age or health are vulnerable to the worst effects of a virus like the coronavirus.
As a result, I am encouraging us to exercise prudence in whether we will be attending worship gatherings. I know how much we enjoy being in worship together, but I will encourage you, if you are part of a vulnerable group, or interact frequently with those who are, to consider staying home for the next couple of weeks.
We will be live-streaming our worship services on Facebook live, which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/CheltenhamUMC/. You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch, since this page is a public page. The videos will remain viewable after the worship service, and we will also look be linking the videos in the Weekly E-pistle, as well. We will also look at ways to use Zoom, which would allow you to call in and listen over the phone.
As Christians, we are called to seek the welfare of the city in which we find ourselves. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the best ways we can do this is by slowing the advance of this outbreak through important actions—avoiding large gatherings, washing our hands, self-quarantining if we feel sick, and so on—so that our medical infrastructure is not overwhelmed, and those who need serious medical care will be able to get it. In the illustration at right, we see that delaying the spread of an illness can preserve the ability of the healthcare system to respond to those cases where intervention is most needed. And so, we do not stay home or self-quarantine for ourselves alone, we do it for the most vulnerable among us, whom Christ calls us to serve.
I know this will be disruptive of our normal routine, but we are fortunate to live in a time when readily available technology affords us ways of staying in connection to one another. And I also know that our little church has a big heart—a heart full of compassion, of wisdom, of love for the God and neighbor. That heart for love, community, justice, and service will see us through this challenge and help us to serve a world in need.
And as we go through this challenge together, we know the promises of God, who says,
“Do not fear, for I am with you,
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Keeping you all in prayer for comfort and healing, I remain
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schaefer
Pastor, Cheltenham UMC