As is evident on all media platforms, the impact of the Coronavirus continues to escalate. The elders are trying to discern the right response. We don't pretend to be experts on these matters, and we understand that you might feel the need to be more (or less) conservative than we are. If so, that's fine. Just make sure you're communicating with all the people you need to if you aren't able to serve in a ministry that expects you.
Loving your neighbor and trusting God
This is a good time to remember two overarching commands in the Bible: love your neighbor and trust the Lord. Both relate to a world battling the Coronavirus. Loving my neighbor in the present climate means that I might limit my outside contact for the sake of others—even if my own personal preference is to be much more carefree about the whole matter. Loving my neighbor means practicing good hygiene (especially washing my hands, mindful with any coughing or sneezing)—not just so I can escape the virus but in order to protect others close to me.
Another side of loving my neighbor at this time is being patient with people who evaluate the threat differently than I do. Some may be too casual about it, others too alarmist. Regardless, we want to extend patience and kindness to one another.
There is also the command to trust the Lord. The one who heals our diseases (and protects us FROM diseases), the one who determines where I might be when and in contact with whom, the one who extends common grace to doctors and scientists, the one who knows the end from the beginning and predetermines all our days—THIS is the one who says to us, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart" (Prov 3:5). A plunging stock market or escalating numbers of Coronavirus cases do not change this need to trust him. His trustworthiness is always infinitely greater than our ability to trust him.
The CDC website lists these signs and symptoms of the virus: Fever, cough, shortness of breath. Their site is largely non-technical on the virus and offers helpful information.
As of 2pm on Thursday afternoon, WRAL has listed no closings or delays by any schools or churches or business. We're aware that universities in our area are extending spring breaks and shifting to online classes for the foreseeable future.
STREAMING OUR SERVICES?
In the event that NC follows Washington and Ohio and forbids gatherings of 250 (WA) or 100 (OH), we're considering whether multiple, small services or streaming services is a good solution. Streaming our services has been a consideration for us for a while in light of those who are members but not able to attend Sunday services. We'll communicate clearly if there's a change to our normal Sunday routine.
In terms of our church life, we are not offering free Panera Bread until the virus has run its course. Sunday mornings we'll have to grab a snack at home! This is also a good time to NOT schedule potlucks as social gatherings.
HYGIENE & CHILDREN'S MINISTRY
Luke Ehresman, deacon of our Children's Ministry says the following:
Parents, please note that in order to best serve all our families, children who have been sick within the past 24 hours, showing symptoms of cough, fever, nausea, or runny nose (not due to allergies) will not be permitted to participate in Children’s Ministry today. Your child is welcome to remain with you in the main meeting. Thank you for your cooperation.
Since COVID-19 can have such a long incubation period and since it may be possible to be contagious without showing any symptoms, we ask that you keep your children out of CM if they are showing symptoms, or if they have had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. If you serve in CM, please refrain from serving and find a substitute.
Mitch Burton, who leads our safety team, is behind many of the comments above and also adds the following,
- Though washing hands with soap and water is best, we have multiple mounted sanitizer gel holders around the church;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell;
- Tissue boxes are in abundance at SGC. Use a tissue if at all possible to catch sneezes and coughs (and then throw away immediately);
- He commends the CDC recommended practices.
HIS PROMISES REMAIN
All of this is a good reminder of how fragile we are and how much we depend on the Lord. How good that his promises to us remain:
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you....Fear not, for I am with you." (Isa 43:2, 5).
"Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:20)